A Peculiar Vessel


Nebi Samuel from the south

Nebi Samuel from the south (Photo credit: sethfrantzman)

“FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS”

1 Samuel 1.

The state of things today is very similar to that which existed at the beginning of the first book of Samuel. Three things in particular seem to stand out there as features of those days.

The first was a formality in the things of God through being pursued in the energy of the flesh; resulting in mixture and spiritual adultery, and spiritual weakness and ineffectiveness.

Another feature was the absence of spiritual revelation and perception – “There was no open vision”. The “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” was inoperative amongst priests and people. Spiritual intelligence and apprehension was a minus quantity.

The third thing was the constant menace of the Philistines, which eventually issued in the departure of the glory from Israel and the absence of the testimony of the Sovereignty from the midst of the people of God. When we remember that the Philistines always represent the intrusion of the natural man (‘uncircumcised’, Col. 2:11,12) into the things of the Spirit, it is a very significant feature.

We leave it with those who have eyes to see to judge whether there is any similarity between then and now. What we have on our hearts is to note the method by which the Lord reacts to this situation.

The two things, then, which immediately come out are, firstly, that the Lord is not satisfied to have it so, yet He does not abandon the situation. Rather does He begin in a secret way to secure the instrument for recovery. The second thing is that there has to be a very deep and peculiar travail in the bringing forth of that instrument. Samuel represents such an instrument, and Hannah represents the travail which produces it.

What is clear in this first chapter is that this will not come about in the natural course of things. The USUAL way will not produce it. Indeed, it is declared that there was a deliberate act of God against that course (verse 6). Hannah’s state was the Lord’s doing. In other realms and for less important purposes – or shall we say, for more general purposes – the usual method may be followed. Samuel was not an after-thought. He was foreknown and foreordained and yet humanly he was an impossibility. Why had the Lord so acted in this matter? How do you relate and reconcile the two things, that Samuel was determined and yet made humanly impossible by the act of God? The first part of the answer is that the bringing of this instrument into being was to be by a fellowship in the Divine travail in relation to the testimony.

Hannah went through unusual and uncommon soul-agony in the matter. She is here represented as “in bitterness of soul” and she “wept sore” (verse 10). It was not just simply a personal interest or a selfish end in view. When at length Samuel was given she placed him at the disposal of the Lord as soon as she possibly could. Concerning Isaac it says that “when the child was weaned”, but in the case of Samuel it says of Hannah that “she weaned him”, as though she was not letting things go on, but bringing about a separation unto the Lord as soon as possible. She was concerned for the Lord’s interests in a specially eager way. This is impressive when we take into consideration the cost of this child, and therefore the peculiar endearment to herself.

Let us get the full force of the truth here. A thing which is to serve the Lord in a specially vital way is not born easily, and is not brought into being without some unusual suffering and travail. There is much bitterness of soul to be gone through, and many tears.

For a time, a drawn-out time, it appears that there will be nothing. The heartache and sorrow seem to remain long in the place of barrenness. And yet there can be no philosophical acceptance or fatalistic capitulation. The Lord is a factor and there is a “hoping against hope”, a wistful looking toward “the God who raised the dead, and call the things that are not as though they were.”

Not one of the least painful aspects of the suffering is the taunting of Peninnah (verse 6). Now Peninnah was of the same household and a co-wife with Hannah. She was not a stranger or a foreigner. It was as such that she “provoked sorely to make her fret”. Peninnah had plenty of children, there was none of this (divinely appointed) human impossibility. Things were more or less simple and easy with her.

So it is, when the Lord determines to secure for Himself that vessel of peculiar purpose, and cuts off all the many activities, works, and occupations which, while being in the same household of faith and in some relation to Himself, are largely by the energies of nature and the facility of man. When and where there are not those usual accompaniments and out workings, those issues and results, the evidences and proofs; then there is criticism, taunting, the pointing of the finger, and grievous imputations. The very acts of Divine sovereignty are given a twist to mean just the opposite of God’s thought. So one system of things taunts the other. Well, so be it! It ever was. It ever will be. But wait! Samuel did come, and one Samuel meant more to God than all the children of Peninnah put together. And yet it is not a matter of comparative values. Samuel was for an hour of peculiar need. The suffering in connection with his coming into life was so deep as to solemnize beyond the suspicion of pride or comparison. All questions of self-realization, vindication, or satisfaction had been tested in the fire, and the refined issue was the glory of God.

Samuel came, and, in the purpose that he served, the suffering and sorrow were made well worthwhile, and the wisdom of God’s mysteriousness was established. God was justified and the channel used was satisfied. We can leave it there.

When the Lord wants something for an hour of peculiar need, the methods have to be out of the ordinary. To those concerned He has to say, ‘Others can, you cannot’.

More and more deeply, we are entering into such an hour at this time. The general thing is not meeting the situation. The Lord must bring through something which will “come to the kingdom for such a time as THIS”.

Who will pay the price? Will YOU?

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Oil For Light (Revised)


 

The book of Exodus, chapter 27 at verse 20:

“And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually. In the tent of meeting, without the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord: it shall be a statute for ever throughout their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.”

Oil for the light.

It is my growing conviction dear friends, that the greatest need of our time is a true knowledge and understanding of the Holy Spirit and His work. Such knowledge, if spiritually apprehended, would really solve by far the greater number of the problems which beset Christians and the church today. If only we really lived in the good of the indwelling Holy Spirit with all that that means as a matter of light… how different everything would be.

So I say again, the pressing need of our time is for such knowledge, such understanding. And so, what follows this day is just touching on the very fringe of that matter; not by any means an attempt to cover it or exhaust it.

This simple fragment: “thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring pure olive oil for the light…” You notice this is a command to the Lord’s people. This is an imperative. This is a necessity. This is indispensable, this is essential – a command. It is not optional, left to choice; this is an obligation: “Command the children of Israel that they bring oil for the light”.

Now, first of all note the place of the light. The lampstand, as you know, was in the holy place, between the outer court and the most holy place. It was in that place which in type is a between place, a place between heaven and earth, heaven and the world – there’s the outside and there’s the inside. There is all that is here in this world on the one side, on the other side there is all that which is essentially heaven – the very presence of God. And in between heaven and earth, this light was to be a place which united heaven and earth and yet divided them.

I think the meaning is what our Lord meant in His great prayer. It seems to me that He was standing very much in this position when He prayed in John 17: “They are not of the world even as I am not of the world, and yet… and yet they are in the world, these are in the world. I come to Thee, they are not of the world.” It is so familiar a truth, almost a hackneyed phrase, “in the world but not of it”. Here is an in-between place which is the place of believers in this present dispensation at this present time. It is our place between heaven and earth in a very real sense. Well, we know that don’t we? We know that on the one hand we are here in this world, right enough and it’s very real. And yet it is just as real that we don’t belong to it, we are not of its life, we’re in an in-between place. We know that we’re not yet literally and actually in heaven, and yet and yet! Somehow or other we are deeply linked with heaven. The place between… that is where the light was to be or where the light was; a place which divides heaven and earth and yet brings them together.

There were no windows in that place. No windows in the holy place. No provision was made for natural light. Natural light was excluded. But for this lamp-stand, it would have been totally dark. All that was there represented in type and symbol, all the values and functions of that place were only possible, capable, of being effective by a light which was not the light of nature.

The Light of the Spirit

The light is produced by the oil. That is very true and touches very closely upon my opening remark. This holy place, this in-between place was symbolic of the position in which Israel were just at that time, they were out of Egypt but they were not yet literally and altogether in the land of Canaan. They were in an in-between place and oh, how they needed the light of heaven for that wilderness journey!

There are two aspects of the Christian life. In Christ it is true we are seated in the heavenlies, but Peter will tell us that we are still pilgrims and strangers; we are sojourners – always the two aspects. And on this side, the peculiar, peculiar position of God’s people at the present time: the pilgrimage aspect.

And this is true to very positive teaching in the New Testament. In this life God has made no provision for natural light. If you and I are going on our way to reach God’s full end then natural light, for one thing, will be no good to us, but for another God has ruled it out. He has made no windows. That’s the argument of the first letter to the Corinthians isn’t it? “The natural man receives not the things of God and neither can he know them”. And the whole force of the chapter in which those words occurs, is: “God has made no windows for that – your reason doesn’t come in here, the light of your natural judgement is not allowed here. It is all excluded. The light that is here is the light from the oil. It’s the light of the Spirit.”

So the argument of the first letter to the Corinthians is the argument about the Spirit, isn’t it? And about what is spiritual for guidance, for judgement, for counsel, and for the knowledge of everything of the Lord. No place for natural light, yet God’s own provision for light which is better than that, it’s God’s own light.

Now look at the contents of this place, the holy place. Well, in addition to the lamp stand, the golden lamp stand, you know there was the golden altar of incense and then there was the golden table of bread, of the loaves. Simple symbols that help us to understand the meaning of the light, the functioning of the oil. Just this, dear friends, and of course we know the symbolism is that the oil is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is our light for the things of God. But this light is not just unto itself. It is to throw its rays upon, to light up, to illumine this whole matter of prayer.

And I’m quite sure I carry you with me when I say what a tremendous need there is that the people of God should know how to pray in the Spirit. If only we knew how to pray in the Holy Ghost! That’s a New Testament phrase: “praying in the Holy Ghost”. We need that. We shall never really get very far without that. We’ll be going round in circles. And you see the Lord from time to time called a halt in this journey for the setting up of the tabernacle again, with everything that it contained. But right in the center was this thing: the light in the holy place upon this matter of intercession and prayer – the altar of incense. It is as though the Lord was saying, “we can’t get any further until we have put a new emphasis upon this matter of prayer in the Spirit, praying in the Holy Ghost”.

Our future, our progress, our fresh stages will require that we get into the Spirit of prayer again and we get prayer in the Spirit. Now, it’s difficult for me to convey all that I am feeling about that, but dear friends, you will grasp the point. If in our prayers and in our own prayer life privately, and when we came together, we come together for prayer as the Lord’s people, we were really praying in the Spirit, how much further we should get! Instead of praying in our own judgements, our own feelings, our own impulses, our own ideas, our own reasoning – what ought to be, what we think should be and so on – and uttering a lot of things out of our own natural light. If the Holy Spirit got hold of our praying and we prayed in the Spirit even one thing, how much further we should get! See, I do not believe it is possible to pray a thing in the Holy Ghost without an issue, without something happening, without something being reached and some moving taking place.

Look again in the book of the Acts. That’s just what it was, you see, they prayed in the Spirit. And that does not mean that they just prayed in a kind of feeling, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of light, you see. And the Holy Spirit knows what God wants. He knows all the purposes of God, all the designs of God, all the ways of God, all the times of God. He knows when the time is due for such and such a thing. He knows exactly how that thing ought to be done. He knows it all, He’s the Spirit of light! Pray in the Holy Spirit and you pray right on to the things that God intends and they must be.

And I can do no more this day than just make this appeal: that you and I seek the Lord yet more earnestly that our prayer life shall be in the Spirit, illumined by the Spirit, that we shall pray in the intelligence and the understanding of the Holy Spirit.

So the oil for the light has a relationship to prayer in the Holy Spirit. On the other hand this light was thrown upon the table and the bread. And that surely indicates that we must feed upon the Word of God in the illumination of the Holy Spirit. This is the extra factor that is so necessary, I feel perhaps more necessary today than ever, if that’s possible.

You can take this book, the Bible, and from the same book, using exactly the same Scriptures, get a hundred different positions, even every one of which is in conflict with the other. That is what has been done! That is what is being done. You see nearly all the different aspects and forms of Christianity today build themselves upon Scripture, support their position by Scripture, and very few of them can stand together. They are contradictory if not antagonistic to one another, they take one thing out of the Word of God and you get these different views which are absolutely in conflict with each other and yet built upon Scripture. And that can be extended over so many things, so many ways.

Well, what are we to do? How are we to know?

Not by leaving the Scripture and arriving at our own conclusions and judgements, but we need the Holy Spirit to tell us what the Scripture means. There’s something, you see, extra to the Word. The Spirit gave this Word and He knew what He meant by it. And He never meant two conflicting and contradictory things. He’s not like that. The Spirit’s mind is one mind. Always very consistent is the Holy Spirit, and there are no contradictions in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is concerned; there are in our natural light interpretations or apprehensions.

Do you not see how important it is to bring oil for the light? That in the Word of God upon which we have got to feed (it is our Bread) Christ has come to us as the Bread in the form of the Word, “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word…” every Word! Christ is the living Word as the living Bread. But oh! We need the Holy Spirit to illumine this Word and to interpret, and to convict, to save us from contradiction. Ah yes, but the Holy Spirit has no windows for our reasoning and our interpretations – natural light. Here everything is shut up to Him; shut up to Him – everything else excluded.

The tremendous importance in our day of the Holy Spirit – knowing the Holy Spirit. My last word is this: beaten. “Bring pure olive oil beaten for the light”. There’s got to be definite exercise about this matter of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the illumination of the Holy Spirit. It just does not happen and come about. It does not just come about, we’ve got to get down to this matter in real exercise and energy and make, shall I say, a business of it: “Lord, Lord, rule out my judgement, rule out my feelings, rule out my likes and my dislikes. You come by Your Spirit and have absolute per-eminence in my heart, in my mind as I pray, as I read Thy Word”. See? It’s business, beaten out, real exercise about the place and the work of the Holy Spirit in our personal life with the Lord and in our collective life.

Let us long to hear that note in our prayer gatherings, a real laying hold of the Lord, “Now Lord, in this hour we must come into the mind of the Spirit about things…” A real laying hold of God, beating it out. “Command the children of Israel that they bring pure olive oil, beaten… for the light”.

 

A Peculiar Vessel


 

Nebi Samuel from the south

Nebi Samuel from the south (Photo credit: sethfrantzman)

 

“FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS”

 

1 Samuel 1.

The state of things today is very similar to that which existed at the beginning of the first book of Samuel. Three things in particular seem to stand out there as features of those days.

The first was a formality in the things of God through being pursued in the energy of the flesh; resulting in mixture and spiritual adultery, and spiritual weakness and ineffectiveness.

Another feature was the absence of spiritual revelation and perception – “There was no open vision”. The “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” was inoperative amongst priests and people. Spiritual intelligence and apprehension was a minus quantity.

The third thing was the constant menace of the Philistines, which eventually issued in the departure of the glory from Israel and the absence of the testimony of the Sovereignty from the midst of the people of God. When we remember that the Philistines always represent the intrusion of the natural man (‘uncircumcised’, Col. 2:11,12) into the things of the Spirit, it is a very significant feature.

We leave it with those who have eyes to see to judge whether there is any similarity between then and now. What we have on our hearts is to note the method by which the Lord reacts to this situation.

The two things, then, which immediately come out are, firstly, that the Lord is not satisfied to have it so, yet He does not abandon the situation. Rather does He begin in a secret way to secure the instrument for recovery. The second thing is that there has to be a very deep and peculiar travail in the bringing forth of that instrument. Samuel represents such an instrument, and Hannah represents the travail which produces it.

What is clear in this first chapter is that this will not come about in the natural course of things. The USUAL way will not produce it. Indeed, it is declared that there was a deliberate act of God against that course (verse 6). Hannah’s state was the Lord’s doing. In other realms and for less important purposes – or shall we say, for more general purposes – the usual method may be followed. Samuel was not an after-thought. He was foreknown and foreordained and yet humanly he was an impossibility. Why had the Lord so acted in this matter? How do you relate and reconcile the two things, that Samuel was determined and yet made humanly impossible by the act of God? The first part of the answer is that the bringing of this instrument into being was to be by a fellowship in the Divine travail in relation to the testimony.

Hannah went through unusual and uncommon soul-agony in the matter. She is here represented as “in bitterness of soul” and she “wept sore” (verse 10). It was not just simply a personal interest or a selfish end in view. When at length Samuel was given she placed him at the disposal of the Lord as soon as she possibly could. Concerning Isaac it says that “when the child was weaned”, but in the case of Samuel it says of Hannah that “she weaned him”, as though she was not letting things go on, but bringing about a separation unto the Lord as soon as possible. She was concerned for the Lord’s interests in a specially eager way. This is impressive when we take into consideration the cost of this child, and therefore the peculiar endearment to herself.

Let us get the full force of the truth here. A thing which is to serve the Lord in a specially vital way is not born easily, and is not brought into being without some unusual suffering and travail. There is much bitterness of soul to be gone through, and many tears.

For a time, a drawn-out time, it appears that there will be nothing. The heartache and sorrow seem to remain long in the place of barrenness. And yet there can be no philosophical acceptance or fatalistic capitulation. The Lord is a factor and there is a “hoping against hope”, a wistful looking toward “the God who raised the dead, and call the things that are not as though they were.”

Not one of the least painful aspects of the suffering is the taunting of Peninnah (verse 6). Now Peninnah was of the same household and a co-wife with Hannah. She was not a stranger or a foreigner. It was as such that she “provoked sorely to make her fret”. Peninnah had plenty of children, there was none of this (divinely appointed) human impossibility. Things were more or less simple and easy with her.

So it is, when the Lord determines to secure for Himself that vessel of peculiar purpose, and cuts off all the many activities, works, and occupations which, while being in the same household of faith and in some relation to Himself, are largely by the energies of nature and the facility of man. When and where there are not those usual accompaniments and out workings, those issues and results, the evidences and proofs; then there is criticism, taunting, the pointing of the finger, and grievous imputations. The very acts of Divine sovereignty are given a twist to mean just the opposite of God’s thought. So one system of things taunts the other. Well, so be it! It ever was. It ever will be. But wait! Samuel did come, and one Samuel meant more to God than all the children of Peninnah put together. And yet it is not a matter of comparative values. Samuel was for an hour of peculiar need. The suffering in connection with his coming into life was so deep as to solemnize beyond the suspicion of pride or comparison. All questions of self-realization, vindication, or satisfaction had been tested in the fire, and the refined issue was the glory of God.

Samuel came, and, in the purpose that he served, the suffering and sorrow were made well worthwhile, and the wisdom of God’s mysteriousness was established. God was justified and the channel used was satisfied. We can leave it there.

When the Lord wants something for an hour of peculiar need, the methods have to be out of the ordinary. To those concerned He has to say, ‘Others can, you cannot’.

More and more deeply, we are entering into such an hour at this time. The general thing is not meeting the situation. The Lord must bring through something which will “come to the kingdom for such a time as THIS”.

Who will pay the price? Will YOU?

 

That I May Know Him and The Power Of His Ressurection


That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 1:17-20).

From time to time, right through the ages, those who have stood in quite a definite relationship to the things of God have either been seduced, or have drifted, or have for some reason come to be in a fixed and systematized positions as to the ways, works, and purposes of God, and these fixed ideas have come to limit Him, bind them, and result in going round in a circle instead of on a direct course of ever-enlarging and clarifying spiritual fulness and newness.

This propensity for fixedness and finality in conceptions has threatened the people of God many times with a fatal impasse. Indeed, Israel’s captivity and eventual disintegration among the nations, with all the agony of centuries, very largely rests upon their fixed idea of being so right as God’s elect. This same peril threatened to frustrate the real spiritual way and purpose of God with Christ’s own disciples. Because of Jewish ideas interpreted by their natural minds, they had prejudices and preconceptions which menaced their spiritual lives and constantly came into conflict with Christ’s mind and way. Paul’s life and ministry was continually opposed by this element, and he himself in his pre-conversion days, is a supreme example of its danger.

So it has been through the ages since, and is one of the greatest hindrances to the quicker realisation of the thought and purpose of the Lord in our own times. The fact is that God must not move or do anything which does not conform to the accepted and recognised order of traditional evangelical Christianity.

Anything that is outside of a prescribed circle of what has been done and how it has been done for generations is unfortunately suspect and boycotted.

The official bodies of organised evangelical Christianity are the final court of appeal. One of the strong factors in the ministry that this paper has sought to fulfil through these many years has been that, while there are those foundational facts which are in their essence unalterable and unchanging, there is always, in everything that comes from God, a wealth and fulness of meaning and value which is commensurate with its infinite Source and Fountainhead, and that the Spirit of Truth can continually make us know that God’s meaning infinitely transcends our apprehension.

We must therefore never box the compass of truth or interpretation, and fix our methods and framework of doctrine or work in a way that makes it impossible for the Lord to show us that, although a certain way of out working was all right for the time being, it was only relatively so, and fuller light means further adjustments. All this, not because the Lord is developing or changing, but because we can only move and change by life, organically, as we grow in understanding. That this is so is proved by much Scripture, and Ephesians 1:17-20 is the great stand-by in this matter; a word written to believers of no immature degree.

We venture to say that a time has begun when the old and fixed positions of traditional Christianity are losing their hold on—not only the Christian public in general—but many sincere seekers for reality, and that great numbers of young people are looking for something not to be found in many of the churches, and what they are looking for is the real and true life of God.

The question which confronts us all is this:

Can the Lord lead us on into His fulness in Christ without continually bumping up against something in our own carry-over of—not fixed truth, but—our fixed limit of its meaning; or something in our fixedness of position in any direction or connection?

Steadfastness, unmovableness, faithfulness, etc. are to be to the Lord, and to the foundation realities of the faith, and also in the purpose for which and to which He has called us in life and service; but adjusting is an essential to growth and increase in light and fulness. At the same time, we cannot change and move on only as there is a basic work of the Cross by which the strength of nature; even as it impinges upon Divine things is set aside.

May the Lord find us such all to have only one object, and that truly at any cost, “That I may know Him”,..that We all may Know Him and the power of His Resurrection, Amen.

Shalom
Rebecca.
Reference: T Sparks

Rooted and Grounded


Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island (Photo credit: Robert Whyte http://www.arachne.org.au)

The Lord’s Object with the Overcomer

“And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.” (Is. 37:31).

Reading: Isaiah 36:1-22.

“And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Matt. 3:10.

“Then came the disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” Matt. 15:12-14.

“…and when the sun was risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” Matt. 13:6.

You will have noticed that in all these passages there is reference to roots, and roots are very important things. A very great deal depends upon roots; for a tree almost everything depends upon the roots. And in the same way, beloved, our roots and our rooting are very important things in the matter of our eternal destiny.

I want to say a little in a general way at the outset before we come to something more specific in this connection. You will notice that the passages which we read (and others could be added to them on the same subject) are divided. Some refer to the sound rooting which will take the strain, which will prove adequate. The others refer to rootings which are not adequate and which will not abide. We might just say a word or two about that second class to begin with.

Through the Word of the Lord there are various kinds and classes of those whose roots and whose rooting is not adequate. Some have been mentioned. The one in Matthew 3:10: “And even now is the axe laid unto the root of the trees”; a word in the ministry of John the Baptist, representing a time of crises when a long period of probation and opportunity had been given by the Lord, and there had been every provision made by Him to secure a sound and abiding rooting on the part of Israel, but now the testing time had come when roots were going to be subjected to a severe trial and testing. The result of that testing, as we know, was that once again Israel was rooted up. Not so many years after this they were rooted up from their land and were carried away in the great hurricane of Divine judgment through the Roman Legions and scattered to various parts of the earth, and they have never since been planted again. The axe was laid to the roots of the tree.

Then two others came in in that class. In Matthew 13 the sower had sowed his seed and some had fallen in rocky places. It had sprung up; when the sun was up it withered, died, having no root. And that, we are given to understand, illustrates those people who hear the Word of the Lord superficially; hear it and in a way receive it, on the face of things respond to it, but in whom it is found eventually there is not the root of the matter. Their kind of receiving, their kind of responding, their kind of association with the Word of the Lord cannot bear the heat, the blaze of the sun, it is something which lies on the outside, it is not that which reaches down into the very depths of their being.

The third, Matthew 15, was a word concerning the Pharisees. The disciples reported that the Pharisees took a certain attitude toward things. The Lord’s Word was: “Every planting (literally) which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind leaders of the blind.”

The Danger of Living on the Past

Now these three cases of roots which do not stand, bring different aspects before us. In the first case, in Matthew 3, you have an historical and traditional thing which has occupied the place of that which claims to represent the Lord and has had much in its history which was of the Lord, in blessing and in use and service; with which much of the Lord has been associated, and which has been associated with much of the Lord in His purpose and His ways; but which has come to a time when it is no more than a past history, a reputation without present life; something that belongs to a by-gone day; whose life, whose vitality and energy and spiritual progress is not up-to-date and abreast of its present claims.

A time of testing comes in the sovereign ordering of God for all such, and it is found by reason of its present root-dryness, lack of vitality, of energy, of up-to-dateness of life that it cannot go through the testing, it is rooted out. A simple word that, and yet a challenging word which shows us two things: that God, in His sovereignty, does most definitely appoint a time in which He will test the state of everything and everyone which makes a claim to be related to Him. He will do that, and then no amount of past history, good history, Divine history, will stand that thing in stead for the day of His testing. Or to put it another way, God tests to find out just exactly how up-to-date spiritual life and spiritual experience is.

There are quite a lot of people who have had a very sound, thoroughly genuine conversion, but who live back on their conversion of ten, twenty, or forty years ago; and while it is true the history was quite sound, it is something of the past. Its vitality has not been continuous, it is not up-to-date, and such people will find that when the winds of God begin to blow they are lacking, they are wanting, and they will be carried away, not necessarily to be eternally lost, any more than Israel is, but to very great loss.

The Danger of an Assumed Relationship to God

And then the Lord also tests most definitely, every kind of profession, every kind of response, every kind of attitude or relationship, to discover whether that is a thing which is on the surface, on the face, superficial; or whether it is a thing which has gone right down deeply into the life, burying its roots in the very sub-soil of experience. Here, again, a simple word, but it may be that there is someone here who is attaching themselves to something, attaching themselves to a place, to a company of people; attaching themselves in an outward way to that which represents the Lord, in hymns and addresses and prayers and services and such like; associating themselves, and, in a way, making some kind of answer or response to the things of the Lord.

Have you seen a self-grown forest in a mountain district after a gale? We have a good deal of that sort of thing in Scotland where the seeds have been carried by the wind and have sown themselves in the very thin soil of a mountain slope, a rocky district. They have grown very tall, lanky thin trees, firs or pines; their roots have spread out and covered a great area, and then – a gale – and as you go along after a gale there are those lanky, thin, gaunt trees lying with their roots right up in the air. You wonder how in all the earth they have managed to cling to the shallow soil. There they are everywhere, rooted up because self-grown, and that is Matthew 13. Something which has made its own kind of response, given its own response, answer, with reservations perhaps, not going too far, not going to be “extreme,” not going to be “singular,” not going to be “fanatical,” just going to be “perfectly balanced” and “sane” and make their own response to the Lord.

All right, God has appointed the hour for a gale. Yes, there will be a blazing sun, it will be discovered whether God did that planting, whether that was a work of God in the heart or whether it was just something of human attachment or association. It may just be that here there may be one or more attaching themselves from the outside to that which is of the Lord, but they are not right in, buried, rooted, grounded, not in the thing in the Lord. Are you attaching yourself to something religious, or are your buried with your roots in Christ? Rooted in Him?

The Danger of Position without Possession

The third word in Matthew 15 relating to the Pharisees of course has to do with those who assumed the role of teachers, spiritual leaders. The Pharisees were those who took upon themselves to guide others in matters of religion. The Lord said of them: “Every planting (literally) which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” In other words it was just this: Everyone who dares to take the responsibility of giving guidance to others, who has not been commissioned of the Lord, with the Lord’s message, will be rooted up. They are self-planted teachers and leaders.

Now, while within the compass of this gathering that may have a very limited application, it is something for us to remember in these days. The absolute necessity that those who lead us in spiritual things should themselves be men who have a mandate from God, men with a message, men with a revelation, men in whom the root of the matter is and not just teachers. I am saying all this in the light of the end-time because I believe we are entering more and more into that phase of things when everything is going to be subjected to testing in the sovereignty of God. Everything of tradition, everything of profession, of vocation; all are going to be tested by the winds of God.

Oh, such winds! Yes, winds of deception. God may not send deception but God will not prevent it. False teachers, false doctrine; severe trial and testing; deep, deep searching experiences, we are all coming into it and it is going to be discovered under the sovereign direction of God just how deep our roots are. Beloved, testing will do one of two things, it will either carry us away or drive us deeper. There is going to be in the end nothing that will not stand the test. The Lord make us those who have our roots downward and our fruit upward.

Now just a little more specific word especially in connection with Isaiah 37. Isaiah has much to say about the remnant, and there is a remnant of Israel, and as we know quite well, there is a remnant of Christianity. The remnant of Christianity is found in the first three chapters of Revelation. It is represented by the oft-repeated words “To him that overcometh”; that is the remnant. You see quite clearly that it is but a remnant in those churches in Asia. The main thing has gone wrong, a remnant of overcomers is seen there and that remnant of Christianity is very much in view in the Word of the Lord.

Now, a remnant feature is roots downward. A feature of a remnant is that it takes root downward. And the Lord does it, the Lord causes it to be so. The Lord so acts in His sovereignty and in His providence to see to it that a remnant is marked by roots which have got such a grip that nothing in hell or on earth can pluck it out. The Lord must, for His own glory, have something like that which can stand all the challenges of the circumstances of life.

The Lord must have something which cannot be carried away, which cannot be removed, cannot be shaken, and certainly something which cannot be rooted up. That is His remnant. That, He must have for His own glory, and, that being so, He will take every measure with His remnant to have them after that kind, with roots downward. Of course, unto fruit upward. We speak much about the upward side of things, life in the heavenlies, sitting in the heavenlies, and our warfare and work – the fruitfulness of our life in union with the Lord. That is only possible as our roots are downward. In order that that might be so, we have to get into a place of unshakeableness where the roots have got such a grip that nothing can overthrow. And I believe that explains a very great deal of what the Lord is doing with His own spiritual people in these days.

It is true that the true children of God are going through a time of intense trial and testing spiritually in these days; everywhere it is so. Why? Because the Lord must have something against which hell is impotent and by which He demonstrates to the universe that strength of His might which causes to stand and withstand and having done all to stand. If one were asked what the last issue for the Church in this age is, I would say that it stands, and that is saying a tremendous thing. Oh, you say, that is surely limiting things, are you not expecting much more than that? Progress, advance, sweeping movements? The Church will have all its work cut out in the end to stand, but its standing will be its victory. Just to be able, through testing, trial, when everything is blowing round you like a blizzard; when everything is dark, mysterious, and even God seems far away and unreal, and faith is tested and you are being assailed on the right hand and on the left, and there is every reason outwardly for your moving, giving up, falling down, surrendering, lowering your standard, just to stand and not be moved in your faith is the greatest possible victory.

The Remnant a Testimony to the Lord’s Power

Now I come to Isaiah 36 and 37. You notice that that passage about the remnant taking root is an issue. Chapter 36 we have heard read this evening, about Rabshakeh and Sennacherib with his boasting, flaunting, high-faluting utterances, challenging not just Hezekiah and the Jews, but their God. Vaunting himself against Jehovah, saying that there has been no god of any of the peoples of the earth who has been able to stand before his master, and certainly the God of the Jews will not be able to stand; and there they are outside the gates of Jerusalem with all this. Why did the Lord allow it? The Lord saw the first movement in far away Assyria, toward Jerusalem; why didn’t He stop them, intervene for the sake of His own, and circumvent? Why did He not raise up circumstances that would hinder? Why did He allow them actually to encamp round and lay siege to Jerusalem, and then allow them to say these things?

It is all in the sovereignty of God. God has allowed this. God has permitted this thing to come right up to this present point. Hezekiah received the letter and rent his clothes, put on sackcloth, and went and spread the letter before the Lord. They were surely in straits. The Lord has allowed, we might even say drawn out, Sennacherib and the mighty hosts of the Assyrians, drawn them out literally, drawn them out materially, drawn them out mentally, drawn them out verbally, extended them, allowed them to inflate themselves to bursting point: they are exalted to the very heavens in their own eyes.

All right, the Lord has drawn them out. A remnant comes into view and the remnant shall take root. When the Assyrian and Sennacherib have gone just as far as it is possible for them to go, have become as inflated as it is possible for them to be, when they have swelled to the very heavens, the Lord for His remnant’s sake sent one angel! Surely, the Lord wants a mighty host to deal with this situation – “And the angel of the Lord went forth.”

Do you see, beloved, a New Testament factor in this? The adversary would impress the weak saints of the Lord with his importance, with his greatness. There is one thing the enemy is always trying to do as a strategic thing and that is to put fear in the heart of a child of God. Fear. There is nothing so weakening, so devastating as fear. If the enemy can get fear into our hearts he has got the city and he will make a great display and vaunt himself and try to impress upon us how mighty he is.

It is never for us to under-estimate the power of the enemy, but we have always got to keep the balance of comparison between our God and the enemy. The Lord’s weakness is more than a match for all the power of Satan. And it comes to this, the remnant puts its faith in the Lord over against all the fury of the oppressor, all the vaunting of the oppressor, and then the Lord proves He only allowed the oppressor to come out in that extreme way to show that the remnant cannot be destroyed, for the remnant takes root in the presence of Sennacherib, in the presence of the Assyrians. “And the remnant… shall again take root.” You see that is the ultimate issue. This was looking on to a coming day, it is true, but it is remarkable that these two things come together, that the Assyrians come into view with all their power and they are only allowed eventually to destroy that which is not counting for God, but God gets, in spite of everything, a remnant with roots.

Rooted in the Cross and Immovable

Now note, you who know the conflict, you who know the fury of the oppressor, the bitterness of the animus of the devil, remember that the Lord allows him to go a long way in order that there might be this double issue. Firstly, an entering into the knowledge of the exceeding greatness of God’s power – but how exceeding great must be God’s power if against the mighty host of Assyria one angel alone is all that is necessary! To discover the exceeding greatness of God’s power on the one hand, and on the other hand, through the work of the enemy himself, to drive the roots down. The Lord uses the adversary in his own hatred and bitterness to get our roots in, and to make us impervious to the Devil. He uses the adversary against himself in our trials. Roots downward, fruit upward. I am sure that is what the Lord is doing.

We are passing through deep experiences, the enemy is doing it and the Lord is not preventing him, but we are coming to a fuller knowledge of the power of our God and a deeper rooting beyond all previous shakeableness. And the Lord is seeking to have a people who cannot be shaken, against whom hell with all its demonstration of arrogance and pride, is impotent. “And the remnant… shall again take root downward.” That is what the Lord needs.

May I remind you that the nature of this planting is just that with which we are so familiar. “Planted together in the likeness of his death.” That is the word of the Apostle, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” The enemy is the instrument so often, of planting us more deeply into the death of Christ. His assaults, his attacks, his accusations, everything – yes. The Lord is not the source of evil but the Lord allows it.

So often our hearts cry out: “Why did the Lord ever allow that in our lives?” That thing which has meant such a deep, dark passage. Why did the Lord allow it? He could have prevented it. Well, we were planted by it into the death of the Lord Jesus. We were brought more than ever to an end of ourselves. Yes, and therefore, to know the Lord in a larger measure than we have ever known Him, and to be brought to a place where it will not be so easy for the Devil to shake us next time.

That is the sovereign way of God in deeper death experiences. “Planted together in the likeness of his death.” Have you been planted there initially? Have you been planted in Christ crucified? Or are you one of those attachments to something? Are you planted? And when a deeper planting comes, remember it is the roots being driven downwards, and the issue is going to be most surely endurance, stability, ability to stand; but, oh, there is going to be greater fruitfulness.

We are in the Lord’s hands, not in the Devil’s hands. We are in the Lord’s hands, and being in His hands we are in the hands of a Potter Who knows what He is after. We were saying this afternoon that first of all, the vessel is in the potter, and then eventually the potter is in the vessel. What we mean is this. That before ever the potter starts, the vessel is in his mind, in his heart very clearly. The pattern is not something objective, the vessel is already a complete thing in him; and then he gets to work upon it and when he is finished, he is in the vessel he has wrought. What was in Him has come out in it.

We say of people’s work: “I can see who made that, it is just like them.” “That is just like So-and-so to make a thing like that.” Yes, He is in His work, He is in the vessel that He makes, and that is just what He is doing. Sometimes that clay has to be pressed down to a shapeless mass, broken. It is not showing all that He intended it to show, there are defects and flaws, and so He crushes it down to shapelessness. A mass without shape. But it is to start again to get something more perfect than has been before, in which He Himself is.

May He give us grace to endure whatever the trial may be, along whatever line of metaphor, the wind, the blaze, supreme heat, or pressure of His hand, all of which is to get us into a place where we cannot be moved, where hell cannot shake us, where His power is made manifest as triumphant over all the power of the enemy.

Reference: T. Austin Sparks

The Removing of those things that are Shaken


Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber to be an example of a charismatic religious leader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The letter to the Hebrews, chapter 12 at verse 26: “Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe.” Chapter 13 and verse 14: “For we have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city which is to come.”

Now, into a very few minutes I want to put just a few things that are on my heart at this time, I believe as partly introductory to the conference which is ahead of us during this next week. You, most of you at least, know why this letter to the Hebrews (as it is called) was written. That is, from the Divine standpoint, why God had it written and preserved. And that undoubtedly was in the light of what we have just read: an imminent, great, shaking… for this letter was written a little before the end of the Jewish system and regime and dispensation. The year 70 was fast approaching when the Roman legions would throw their siege around Jerusalem and reduce it – as the capital and centre of the Jewish world – to rubble; literally fulfilling the words of the Lord Jesus, “They will not leave one stone upon another”. It was the end of that long, long Jewish era, and that was on the very near horizon when this letter was written. And we can see therefore, the infinite wisdom of God in bringing into view the heavenly and eternal counterpart of that whole system of earthly things. That system was to be shaken to its foundations and toppled to the earth. But after all, as the whole letter shows, at most and at best it was but an earthly representation of heavenly things and the earthly was passing now and it was therefore necessary for men and women of faith in the Lord Jesus to have their anchorage in the heavenly, and the abiding; the eternal. And that was the purpose of the letter.

But you can clearly see, even from the fragments which we have read, that that was not the end of the matter. For even here when that had happened, when it had happened, the whole earthly thing broken to pieces and passed away, there’s a pointing on. There’s still a future vision, and even these who looked beyond the figures and the types and the symbols and the earthly and the temporal, had in view a City which was never of this earth and of this world: “We look for a City, we have here no abiding City…”. That was very evident with the passing of Jerusalem, but: “…we seek one.”

Now, dear friends, of course that opens up far more than I can put into fifteen minutes but out of that and around that I want to gather one or two things a little on my heart very much in these days. If it is true that that shaking was only half of the great shaking and the other half will be the shaking not only of the earth but of the heavens also (that is, not only of the temporal but of the spiritual, not only of the local but of the universal) then to bring in the setting which is abiding… everything that is not abiding, that cannot stand has got to be shaken to its foundation.

When the Lord Jesus was speaking in many words about this very day of Jerusalem’s destruction and passing and Israel’s scattering, He gave many indications; signs which would clearly indicate that that day was at hand. He spoke about the “signs of the times” as we call them; spoke about a fig tree and other things which would clearly indicate that that day was at hand. But then He passed beyond that and carried us to the end of this dispensation and He gave many further signs of how we should know that this greater end than the end of Jerusalem and Jewry was at hand; given us many signs and I’m not going to try to gather up or even mention, but they are indeed very significant. I think, dear friends, this is the point: I think that we have today an almost overwhelming amount of evidence that we are on the point of this far greater shaking. In other words: that we are at the end of another dispensation.

I always hesitate in the realm of prophecy, you never hear me say very much about prophecy; I’ve had enough of the confusion of prophecy in fifty years of study of it. But at the same time, with all that, with all my carefulness about it, I cannot but feel that everything today is most portentous. I would not be surprised (if I may say it) if during this past week one of the most significant things has happened in relation to the end. There is a great system, the very heart and core of which is anti-God and anti-Christ. And one of the things which the Bible tells us will mark the manifestation of the man of sin who will put himself in the place of God is that he will be a tremendous showman, calling down fire from heaven. Everybody can see how easy that could be any day now, calling down fire from heaven! We are almost familiar with that aren’t we, and many other such things.

Now I could dwell on that side of the matter for a long time but I simply mention that, I think… indicative of so much more that points to our coming to the end of this dispensation very soon – the heading up of the final great shaking of heaven and earth. But what I want to touch upon at least this morning is what this means to believers. And that means you and me. What are we to expect? What will be the spiritual signs of the times? We are fascinated with the material, the temporal signs; tremendously impressed with the outward, but what will be the spiritual signs? I just mention it; you must take it away and think about it.

I believe that the Word of God makes very clear (we shall see that much more fully later) that as we get near to the end, as the end approaches, two or three things are going to happen where believers are concerned. One is, one is that they are going to be brought very definitely to the point of accountability for all that God has given them – accountability for all that God has given. God has given much: a great revelation, a great deposit in His Word and through His Word, in ministry, ministry which He Himself has given. I’m not speaking just here, but to His people; a tremendous amount of ministry that God has given through His Word. But there the foundation and substance of it is all preserved in a most marvelous way in the Scriptures and at the end you and I are going to be brought to our accountability to God for what He’s given us. I believe the church, the people of God, are really going to have to face up to what they’ve got; what they’ve received. There, I feel, and I could show you from the Word, that that is made perfectly clear in the Scriptures: that we are going to be brought face to face in very real and even drastic ways with what we’ve got, with what we’ve received; to answer for it and to it.

Let me carry that further. I believe the Word shows very clearly that the people of God will pass into a phase of spiritual experience where what they have is required to be their very life. What they have is required to be their very life and their very survival! That could be said in another way: that the things that you and I have received and think we know are going to be sifted right down of all mere teaching, interpretation, mental grasp; stripped of everything. Now then, what about that that you have taught, you have believed? Now then, what about the meaning of the Cross? Now then, what about the meaning of the Body of Christ, spiritual unity and fellowship? What about it? Now then, what about the sufficiency of Christ? See? I believe that that is going to happen. Reality! Downright reality is going to be the emphasis of the Holy Spirit at the end and you and I and the people of God will pass into such an intensity of spiritual experience under pressure, under stress, under trial and testing that we shall be found out as to what proportion of all that we have claimed to hold is really our being and our life. We’re going to be just stripped down to that.

I believe that is what is happening just now and may be the explanation. We have spoken of Christ as our Life. Very well then, the Holy Spirit says, “Let’s find out how true that is and how much there is.” It may be an explanation of the physical; something along that line – how much is Christ our Life physically? Have we proved Christ as our Life for our bodies as well as for our spirit? Have we? Because there is divine Life for the body dear friends, some of us would not be here today if that were not true. There is divine Life for the body to be had, if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead be in you… “He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal body”. That’s not the dust that’s in the earth; that’s your body now “by His Spirit that dwelleth within”. Well what about it? That’s only one point, there’s many others.

We’re just going to be brought to this: is it real? Is the Cross real? Is the Life real? Is Christ real? How much so? That’s going to be sifted out at the end and there’s going to be a shaking of all that can be shaken. And does this not explain very much? Yes there’ll be a great falling away because the large measure of mere profession or claim that is not justified deep down in the very constitution of those people. Well, this is it. This letter, this whole letter, puts its emphasis here: the thing, the thing that matters is the eternal. All history… the Lord has built up a tremendous history around that, do you notice? And what a lot of light it throws upon things, although many problems associated with it.

Have you noticed that whenever, during the whole Christian era from apostolic times to this day, whenever anything that was raised up by God at its beginning became crystallized and static, fixed and set, the Lord had no further interest in preserving it? The explanation of why things have a wonderful beginning and their end… what? Well, you don’t see the Lord preserving it intact! It’s living on a past. It’s simply holding a tradition. The Lord doesn’t care about that. It’s become something fixed down here on this earth and God is only interested, in this dispensation, in the eternal! The City is not here, it’s there. “We are come unto the heavenly Jerusalem.” The Lord won’t let us, won’t let us! And we here have got to be as careful of this as any others have in their connection, that what we call or what is called “Honor Oak” never becomes a fixed system of things, a rigid, set, crystallized, boxed compass of teaching and truth: “That’s that! Finished! Complete!”. Never! God forbid that ever anything like that should happen to us. If so, the Lord won’t preserve it; He won’t! He will have no interest in our preservation for that is the history of things: something new from God (and we could put our finger upon so many couldn’t we?) down through the centuries. Yes, something from God; the reformation, and Wesley, and the Brethren, and all the rest; but… but! Has God founded something so dear to His heart that He would preserve it intact and never allow it to go to pieces and become confused and divided and mixed up? Not at all. Why? Because it became Protestantism; an ism. It became an ism you see. Something like that, fixed, set and rounded off. He’s not in that at all. This heavenly, eternal, spiritual is His interest and He won’t let it settle down here. No ambitions on this earth or in this world will be allowed by God in His people. Have anything like that and you’re in for a bad time, a really bad time.

Now, you see I’m defeated entirely trying to range this, but what I wanted to say, and what is really on my heart that I’m feeling so strongly, is just this: that if we can see anything that corresponds to this in the experience of the Lord’s people today, a sifting, shaking, stripping, getting down to roots and foundations and finding out where we are – that is a sign of the times. It’s a real sign of the times, an internal one. The day is far spent, the coming of the Lord is drawing near. And of course we agree that’s right. We say it’s right. It must be. Surely it’s the thing that must happen! The Lord mustn’t come and find us in a false position; mustn’t come and find us in a position where it’s make-believe, it’s not true; not at all.

So the end may be through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom, the Word says so: “receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken”. A part of the much tribulation through which we enter the kingdom is just this: finding out, oh by such drastic ways, in discipline and chastening and hammering and battering and pressure… finding out how much is real. How much is real? How much is true? Well, the Lord throw more light on that.

The Riches of HIS Grace


“In whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
In his Letters the Apostle Paul uses the word ‘riches’ some thirteen times. Each occasion has a context which is deeply valuable. From these we take this one: “The riches of His grace”, and we are going to let David and Solomon be our example of this superlative grace. I would just like that you look at one or two fragments in the first book of the Chronicles, chapter 28, verses 1-6:

“And David assembled all the princes of Israel, the princes of the tribes, and the captains of the companies that served the king by course, and the captains of thousands, and the captains of hundreds, and the rulers over all the substance and possessions of the king, and of his sons, with the officers and the mighty men, even all the mighty men of valour, unto Jerusalem. Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people: as for me, it was in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God; and I had made ready for the building. But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou art a man of war, and hast shed blood. Howbeit the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me out of all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever: for he hath chosen Judah to be prince; and in the house of Judah, the house of my father: and among the sons of my father he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel: and of all my sons, (for the Lord hath given me many sons) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts: for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.”
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 3:1).
“And Solomon the son of David was strengthened in his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly” (2 Chronicles 1:1).


We have said that the summit of Old Testament fullness was reached in Solomon, and we shall find that Solomon will lead us to Christ, and then Solomon will be eclipsed, as out of view, when the Greater than Solomon is here. Solomon’s wealth and wisdom and glory and heritage are proverbial and fabulous, renowned, and far famed. He does represent the summit of kingship and glory in the Old Testament. Jesus Himself acknowledged the greatness of Solomon on two occasions, you remember. He pointed to the flowers in the field and said: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Solomon in all his glory was proverbial, even in those days; Jesus Himself acknowledged it. On another occasion He said: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon,” acknowledging the great place that Solomon had in the world of wisdom. But then Jesus added after that, “Solomon in all his glory”, and ‘Solomon in all his wisdom’, that “a greater than Solomon is here”. Solomon fades when Jesus arrives. The unsearchable riches of Christ! We have, then, to consider how in various respects Jesus is greater than Solomon.

One thing that we have been saying, and that is in our hearts in this time together, is our great need for a new apprehension of the Lord Jesus to adjust everything for us. But there are two preliminary considerations before we can proceed with this matter. Why did God magnify Solomon? For it says that “the Lord magnified Solomon above all that have been before him”. The Lord endowed Solomon with this fabulous, proverbial greatness of wealth, dominion and wisdom. Why did He do it? God from eternity has only one person in view, and that person was not Solomon, nor any other one but His Son, and if the Lord so magnified Solomon, it was to bring His Son, the still greater, into view. Through the greatest thing He could do here on this earth to lead on to the much greater of the heavenly. God had His Son in view, the other One, the Greater than Solomon, and that is why He did it. I wish Solomon had known that! It would have saved him a great deal of historic tragedy. If we really saw that, and this One, this only One, were ever filling our vision, all these tragedies, mistakes and blunders that we make – or that Solomon did later – would be obviated.

Oh, the wonderful things that God said seemingly about Solomon could never possibly have been fulfilled in Solomon himself. They were quite beyond him! God was reaching beyond this man in the things that He seemingly said about him, and to him, and you have to pick up your New Testament in order to discover to Whom they really applied. Well, we may come on that as we go on, but the point is that we must not see Solomon as just the end in himself. We must look through him to Another and see that God in His sovereignty magnified and glorified this Solomon only with another One in view, and in the long run we shall see the Greater than Solomon, the Greater than the greatest that God has ever done on this earth.

Another thing we must remember in this preliminary consideration is that Solomon was not really himself. I mean this: Solomon was his father, David. Solomon was the fullness of his father, David, and you can never see Solomon without seeing David. That is, it was not so much the person as the significance of the person that is present in contemplating Solomon. When you turn to the New Testament, Solomon is only referred to, at most a half a dozen times, almost in a casual way, but David is referred to in a very positive way over thirty times. That is a statement you must dwell upon, of course, to verify. When you open your New Testament at the first book, the Gospel by Matthew, you find that you have read but a few words and you are on David. He comes there, in that place of priority, right at the beginning of the New Testament. You go through the New Testament and, as I have said, you will find yourself with David more than thirty times. Right on the last page, in the twenty-second chapter of the book of the Revelation, David creeps up again. This man is something very wonderful, very full, and he has a very large place. There is one clause in Isaiah 55, and repeated in the New Testament, which defines this as “the sure mercies of David”. Oh, to be able to plumb the depth of that! This morning we shall see a little of it – “the sure mercies of David”.

All that pertained to Solomon was “the sure mercies of David”, and that brings us to the first of the greatnesses, the first of the “unsearchable riches of Christ”, the first in Ephesians, and everywhere and always: The riches of His grace. Have you seen the riches of His grace as conveyed to us by Solomon? Having seen the great eminence of glory, of wealth, of wisdom to which God brought this man Solomon, we have to look to see where it all began. Where did all that begin?

There is a very dark background indeed to Solomon’s birth and life. We have said that he was the fullness of his father, David. Solomon was the son of David’s old age. He was not the only son – we read: “God hath given me many sons”. We know some of them, and one in particular – Absalom. But Solomon was the son of David’s old age, and it was an old age full of shadows: the shadows of tragedies, of sorrows, and of great mistakes. Solomon was related to the darkest clouds in David’s life.

We know the story of David’s great sin with Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah. David, relaxing wrongly at the time when kings go out to battle, went up to the housetop (there are relaxations which are very dangerous!) and from the housetop he espied that beautiful woman, Bathsheba, and coveted her. His passions rose and he said: ‘I must have her.’ Passion is a very, very fertile thing in evil, and so he schemed to get her. You know the rest of the story – how he planned, plotted, to get her husband, Uriah, in the forefront of the battle, and then told the other fighters to retire and leave him alone to the enemy, which they did. Uriah was left and slain according to David’s precalculated plan, and they came back to David and told him: ‘It has succeeded. Uriah is dead.’ Then David sent to fetch Bathsheba, and he took her. The child born of that iniquitous union was smitten by God. He languished for days and then he died. Nathan, the prophet, went to David with a message from God and wrapped it up in a parable about something that happened in the city, and he painted it in such lurid pictures that David rose in anger, in wrath, and said: ‘The man who has done such a thing shall die.’ Nathan pointed at him and said: “Thou art the man!” Nathan brought home the accusation in a smashing, crushing blow, and then added: “Thou shalt not die.” We will see the point of that in a moment.

The depth and greatness of David’s sin is seen in those terrible confessions, heart-brokenness and sorrows. We have to look at the Psalms, for they are touched here and there with this. In Psalm 32: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.” Psalm 38 verse 18: “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” And then a whole Psalm – Psalm 51 – one of the most terrible bits of literature in existence. Look at the heading of this Psalm: “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” … “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in thy sight.” So the whole Psalm, which we will not read, but one more fragment: “Deliver me, O God, from bloodguiltiness.” Here we are; broken-hearted, penitent, standing at God’s tribunal, pleading for mercy, full of self-condemnation, a conscience stained with iniquity, and God’s face turned away, a desolation of heart. He cries: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, have mercy upon me.”

David had sinned the sin which put him beyond the pale of the virtue of all the Levitical sacrifices. If you read the sacrifices and the conditions, you will find that they do not cover this sin, they have no provision for this. Even the cities of refuge which provided for the man-slayer would not take in David, because the man-slayer who found refuge there was the man who had caused someone to die inadvertently, without premeditation, by accident. So there was no provision for him, a man who had premeditated, planned, schemed, and brought about a death; the city of refuge had no place for him. No sacrifice is provided for him, therefore. In this Psalm 51, David says: “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offering thou desirest not” – ‘It is no good. I have not any.’ He was out of the pale of all their sacrifices and their virtue by premeditation. Oh, how far this man had gone! No wonder his conscience made him cry out like this! Uriah’s death – murder – lies at David’s door, and the little innocent babe’s death lies at his door. What are you going to do with a man like that? What are you going to do with a sin like that? It is outside the pale of all God’s Mosaic prescribing. What answer have we got to this? How can this man escape? How can glory be the end of that? There is only one answer, and there is an answer: Grace! Grace goes beyond all Old Testament limits.

David is the greatest Old Testament example of pardon through Grace. Remember that! That is why he is brought into view so much. That is the meaning of “the sure mercies of David”. Why of David? Unsearchable riches of His grace! The son gathers into himself all that meaning of Divine grace, what grace can do in relation to a situation like that. How glorious! Glory can follow grace. “The glory of HIS grace” is a phrase in Ephesians. My, how deep!

You ask: Can there be anything greater, a greater demonstration of grace than that toward David represented in a temporal way in Solomon? (Underline that word ‘temporal’.) Can there be anything greater than that? Is there greater grace than that represented by Solomon? Oh, yes: “A greater than Solomon is here!” As Son of Man, God’s Son came into the inky darkness and blackness of the sin of the whole race, not of one man. He bore the judgment of that sin upon the whole race and brought God’s infinite grace to the world – to the world!

Look again at that cross on Calvary’s hill! Take another look, and listen. Listen to that bitter, heartbroken cry: “Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani?” … “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The word embracing all time and eternity: “forsaken… forsaken”, David may have tasted something of that. Dear friends, when you look at that cross and hear that cry, you touch the deepest, deepest depth of human tragedy, that is, that the race, but for the grace of God, is God-forsaken eternally. If you have ever tasted a deep, deep sorrow within the compass of human capacity, you know that that hour of darkness is like an eternity. It is not momentary; it is like an eternity. It seems that an end of things for ever has been touched. In that moment when Jesus cried “forsaken, forsaken”, He touched the eternity of man’s destiny outside of God. That cry with that word “forsaken” is the measure of human depravity. We have yet to feel the tremendous impact of the Cross in this sense – that if Jesus had not gone there for us, we would be eternally forsaken of God. The face of God is turned away. The blackness and darkness of eternal doom rests upon the race – but for the Cross of Jesus Christ and what He has done there as forsaken.

Have you ever tasted the slightest drop of death? Oh, yes, it is possible, even in our Christian, spiritual life. I confess that there have been times when I wondered if the Lord had gone out of my universe, if He was really still alive and if He had not forgotten me. I cried: ‘Has the Lord forgotten to be gracious?’ It was as though the Lord had gone. I could not find Him. I would pray, but I could not touch Him. A little experience like that is not God forsaking us, thank God! It never is, for He said: “I will never forsake you”, but a little consciousness of the remoteness of the Lord from us is the worst experience of tragedy in our life. Oh, it is the most awful thing to have to go for a little while without the realization of the Lord, to be groping for the Lord and not finding Him, like Job, a righteous man: “I go on the right hand, he is not there; on the left, he is not there; I go forward, he is not there. Oh, that I knew where I might find him!” Have you had any experience at all like that? I do not want you to have it if you have not. Do not covet it. But some of you might just know a day, or a few days or more, of: ‘Oh, where is the Lord? Where is the Lord?’ It may be that the Lord lets us know something about that to bring us into that fellowship of His suffering and to make us understand how great a thing He has done for us, for He does not believe in theories and doctrines. The Lord is very practical. Experience is His school, and He will teach us in that heavy school of experience.

Yes, a greater than Solomon or David is here. He came, and He touched the deepest depth of human depravity which is found in that word “forsaken”. Anybody who does not believe in the depravity of human nature, and a total depravity, has not yet seen the Cross of the Lord Jesus, and seen us there, forsaken of God, on the one side. Yes, grace reaches the deepest point of human tragedy, and that is man’s forsakenness, but for Christ. Grace! What a word this is! If Solomon, in all his glory, was brought out of that terrible iniquity, judgment, outside of the pale of Levitical provision; if all his glory comes out of that, what can you say about it? What word is there to explain it? Only this one: Grace! We will go around that word for all time and all eternity.

Dr. J. H. Jowett, who was one of the greatest preachers of the last century, said this: “There is a word I have wrestled with so much. There is no word with which I have wrestled more than this one: Grace! It is like expressing a great American forest in a word. No phrase can express the meaning of grace. Grace is more than mercy, it is more than tender mercy, it is more than a multitude of tender mercies. Grace is more than love, it is more than innocent love. Grace is holy love, but it is holy love instantaneously going out in eager quest toward the unholy and the unlovely. It is the ministry of a great sacrifice, to redeem the unholy and unlovely into the beauty of God. The grace of God is holy love on the move to thee and to me and the like of me and thee. It is God’s unmerited, undeserved going out toward the children of man that He might bring them into the glory and brightness of His own likeness.” Well, that is an attempt to define this word.

Was not Paul right in speaking of the unsearchable riches of His grace? And Paul knew what he was talking about. There was a background to this man’s life. ‘I am not worthy,’ said he, ‘to be called an apostle. I persecuted the church.’ He was on his knees before the Lord, and the Lord was showing him His grace and His mercy. He said: ‘But, Lord, when Your servant Stephen was martyred, I was there, giving my consent. What ground have I for apostleship? What ground have I to be anything at all? My hands are stained with bloodguiltiness, all premeditated, designed and enacted with terrific force. How dare I look up into Thy face and be a disciple, a child of God, to say nothing about being an apostle!’ “But unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints, was this grace given to preach among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
If you cannot comprehend me, may the Lord register the impression upon us!

Prayer: How easily, with facile speech, we repeat: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Oh, Lord, challenge us with that word, lift us with that word, save us with that word. Can we dare to say, glorify us with that word? Oh, if all the words are forgotten, and our human efforts to convey it fail entirely, leave the impression! The grace of God is indeed the greatest thing in this universe for humans such as we are. We commit it to Thee; oh, give us to glory in Thy grace, for Thy Name’s sake. Amen.

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