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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An Assault on Fellowship


There are few matters which go to the heart of the Lord’s testimony more than the matter of fellowship between the Lord’s people, and especially where there is particular responsibility for His testimony. The drive of the enemy and all his subtle and diabolical wit, as well as his pressure and his misrepresentations, will be directed toward destroying that relationship of fellowship. He will seek somehow to divide believers, and get in between. And if you are not careful you will resolve all such matters into merely natural problems and say: Well, it is incompatibility of temper! So-and-so is made this way, and the other person is made that way; you can never blend people who are so different in temperament and outlook! If you allow a conclusion of that kind your testimony is gone; you may as well abandon your position in the Lord and go and scour the world for people who in everything see eye to eye. Does it mean that the Lord’s work, as entrusted to two or three or more together in one place, can only continue in so far as these children of His are able at all times to get on with one another on a natural basis? The Lord help His work if that is what is required. We have to look deeper than that.

This drive on fellowships and relationships is Satanic. There may be ground, there may be human elements, but those concerned should take this attitude toward one another: The Lord’s testimony is bound up with our oneness; the Devil will do everything he can to destroy that, and to strike a blow, therefore, at the testimony! You and I are going to be one in the name of the Lord, and stand our ground against the enemy! There we have something altogether different from the attempt to get on with one another on a natural basis, we have a dynamic for fellowship. We have to get on with one another in the name of the Lord, or else the Lord’s testimony is not established.

There is something much bigger than a natural or human situation to be dealt with, and when we realise that back of what may truly be natural difficulties there is always something else at work, and that therefore we must keep these natural things in the place of the Cross, and stand together against the enemy, we will get through; but we will never do so by spending a lot of time trying to adjust ourselves to one another, and seeing how far we can work together. Standing shoulder to shoulder against the enemy who is assailing fellowship, we will find the way of triumphant fellowship. Come down on the natural level, and the enemy will soon make terrible havoc of the whole relationship.

  • “Receive one another just as Christ also received us’ Romans 15” 7
  • “Bless those who persecute you, bless do not curse” Romans12: 14
  • “Let love be without hypocrisy” Romans 12: 9
  • “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, its not provoked nor thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6
  • “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” Luke 18: 27
  • “You were bought at a price do not become slaves of men” 1 Corinthians 7: 23

Remember, then, that all these things which sometimes seem to be so natural are in principle deeper down, and the activity of the enemy is behind them in his seeking to circumvent that gain, that advance, that increase, that attaining unto dominion, and he must be withstood in these matters.

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?

 

Whose Will (11)


 

Fellowship Rests on the Will

Think of the relationship of will to fellowship—man’s spiritual fellowship with his Redeemer. That friendship is not based on kindred feeling; it is based, according to Christ, on kindred-will. “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee”; and Jesus answered, “Who is my brother? He that doeth the will of my Father in heaven, the same is my mother, my brother, and my sister.” It is not a question, then, of what you know, if you are to be a brother or sister of the Lord. It is not a matter of excited feeling nor of any glowing or ecstatic rapture. He that does the will—though it might be often sore and though the way might be dark and though the wind be chill—he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My sister and My brother. That means that all fellowship with Jesus Christ depends on dedication of the will.

We must say, “Take my will, and make it Thine,” if we are to be numbered in His company. And if fellowship with Him be true religion—the truest and purest the world has ever known—you see how it does not rest on thought or feeling, but has its wellspring in the surrendered will.

Surrender of the Will

And in the life of Christ this is the crowning glory—a will in perfect conformity with God’s. He is our Savior and our great exam-pie because of that unfailing dedication. Look at Him as He is tempted in the wilderness—is there not there a terrible reality of choice? Does there not rise before Him the alternative of self, to be instantly and magnificently spurned?

Think on these things – Christ who was also one with God, left His throne and Majesty, left His glory and splendor and took on the human state, the nature of mere men. He had the power to unleash legions of angels to clear the road, heal every sick man and triumph into Jerusalem, but every action, every thought, has to be the will of His Father in Heaven, (I must do the will of Him that sent me and finish it). And ever through the progress of His years, He left what He was and could do behind, only and fully focused on one goal which was His meat is to do the will of God who sent Him; until at last, upon the cross of Calvary, the dedication is perfected and crowned.
May we  all, young or old, shepherds and ministers, ever remember that the will is the very citadel of manhood.

To be a true Christian that must be yielded up. Everything else, (personality, fame, charisma, tongues, gifts, eloquence, wealth and riches)  without it aligning with the perfect will of God for us for this time is in vain.

Perfect Will of the Almighty God comes when we humbly go to Him everyday and everytime for direction and guidance, not repeat methodology, because “it worked perfectly yesterday” or “that principle is what we used last year” or as some say “this is how it is done”. Don’t forget the strategy for parting the red seas, was different from the conquering of Jericho, and that was different from other battles that confronted the people of Israel, when you search the scriptures, you discover that every time the Israelites go into battle without consulting the Lord, failure and death awaits them. The Almighty God is unique in His ways and dealings with us as a Nation and as an individual.  “It is not for man to direct His ways, the Lord orders our steps” and He does this every single day, that is why His blessings and mercies are NEW every day.

Religion founded on feeling is unstable. A religion of intellect is cold and hard and doomed for failure

Our ultimate goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ our saviour. Total surrender is what Christ did and demands, and in it lies the secret of all peace. You may have the best idea, most tenderest feelings but if you habour an un-surrendered will, your righteousness is but a  filthy rag before the Almighty God.

So I urge you to pay attention to these words..“And do not be conformed to this world (and its system of things), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” Romans 12: 2

Think on these things.

Rebecca Ajibola

 

The Man Who Does No Miracle


Tomb of St. John the Baptist at a Coptic monas...

Tomb of St. John the Baptist at a Coptic monastery in Lower Egypt. The bones of St. John the Baptist were said to have been found here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true— Joh_10:41

The Brilliant and the Average

The kind of man who does no miracle is the kind we are meeting every day. He is the man who never makes us marvel. There are men like Shakespeare who cannot take up a pen without enriching us with miracles of wisdom. There are women who delight us with miracles of song. But the average man is different from that. One can reckon on the thing that he will do. It is the sort of thing that we can do ourselves. Now, brilliance may be perilous; but mediocrity also has perils. Remember that in the Master’s story it was the man of the one talent who made shipwreck. So it may help us to consider briefly what Scripture has to teach about a man who never did a miracle.

Even Though John Didn’t Do Any Miracles. He Had a Lofty Character

First, the Baptist did no miracle, yet he had a lofty character. Perhaps we should be aware of that more vividly if the Baptist did not stand so close to Jesus. A flower is apt to blossom unobserved if it be near one that is altogether lovely. And our blessed Lord, in that perfect poise of His, was “altogether lovely.” So that often we are likely to miss, from its very proximity to what was perfect, the grandeur of the character of John. How true he was in every relationship! How wise in the midst of tumultuous excitements! How brave both in the desert and the dungeon! How exquisitely and gloriously humble!—and all this loftiness and moral worth found, not in the child of genius, but in the man who never did a miracle. Character does not demand great gifts. Character can ripen in the commonplace. Men who have no wonder-working genius can “come smiling from the world’s great snare uncaught.” And to do that, when life is difficult, and skies are dark and temptations are insistent is to reach the sunrise and the crown.

John Had a Special Work to Do

Again, the Baptist did no miracle, yet God gave him a special work to do. It was the work of witnessing to Christ, and John fulfilled it in the noblest way. Others dreamed that the Messiah would come in splendor: John witnessed that He was in their midst. Others dreamed that He would appear in sovereignty: John witnessed that He was the Lamb of God. And this great mission, of such supreme importance in the loving purposes of heaven, was given to a man who did no miracle. We are so apt to think that special service is only given to very special people, that great tasks are not for common folk but for men of wonder-working gifts. And the beautiful lesson of our text is this, that though you may have no power to do a miracle, for you, too, there is a special service-something that only you can do; something that won’t be done unless you do it; something the world needs, which you and you only can supply—you, not dowered with any gift of miracle. Business men in a humble way of business, mothers in undistinguished homes, riveters working in the shipyards, clerks and typists in the city offices—such do no miracles and never will save the one miracle of patient drudgery; yet God for each has a special work to do.

John’s Influence

Then the Baptist did no miracle, yet he exercised a deep and lasting influence. It was of that, in part, our Lord was thinking when He said that John was greater than the prophets. In the long history of Israel none were more influential than the prophets. They stirred the conscience; they revived the state; they brought God to bear on daily life. But even greater than that prophetic influence was the influence of John the Baptist—yet John was a man who never did a miracle. Is not that true of human life? Most of us in our journey through the years have met with some who had the gift of miracle—some who could take a common thing and touch it, and it would blossom into a world of beauty. And for all these wonderful gifts we shall be grateful, for every good and perfect gift is from above, but—are these the folk who have influenced us most? Is it not far more often common, humble people, dowered with no extraordinary gifts?—a wife or mother, a wise and faithful friend, a minister whom none would call a genius? It is one of life’s most perfect compensations that influence does not depend on brilliance but comes to those (like John) who do no miracle.

God’s “Well Done” Is for the Faithful Man

Lastly, the Baptist did no miracle, yet he won the highest praise of Christ. “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John.” A man may lead a false and rotten life and yet win the praise of men. The acid test of the successful life is this: does it win the praise of Christ? And the fine thing is that to win that praise one does not need to be wonderful or striking: it is given to those who may do no miracle—to those who trust Him when everything is dark; to those who keep their faces towards the morning; to those who, through headache and through heartache, quietly and doggedly do their appointed bit; to those who “endure” with a smile upon their lips; to those who help a brother by the way; to those who look for a city which hath foundations. In this big world there is room for every gift and for every genius who has the power of miracle. But in this big world there is room and power and victory for the great multitude who do no miracle. It is not “Well done, thou good and brilliant servant,” else would there be little hope for millions. It is “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

 

The Number Of Hours


 

Jesus

Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Are there not twelve hours in the day?   John_11:9

 

 

 

The Disciples’ Misunderstanding of Christ

 

These words were spoken by Jesus at the time when news had been brought Him that Lazarus was sick. For two days Jesus had made no move, but had abode with His disciples where He was. The disciples would be certain to misconstrue that inactivity—they would whisper, “Our Master at last is growing prudent”—and therefore their amazement and dismay when Christ announced He was going to Judea. They broke out upon Him with expostulation—”Lord, it was but yesterday that You were stoned there. It is as much as Your life is worth to think of going—it is the rankest folly to run that tremendous risk.” And it was then that Jesus turned upon the twelve with a look which they never would forget and said to them, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” It is on these words that I wish to dwell a little. I want to use them as a lamp to illumine some of the characteristics of the Lord, for they seem to me to irradiate first, the earnestness; second, the fearlessness; and third, the restlessness of our Savior.

 

 

 

The Earnestness of Christ

 

What first arrests us, reading the life of Jesus, is not His strong intensity of purpose. It is only gradually, and as our study deepens, that we feel the push of that unswerving will. If you put the Gospel story into the hand of a pagan to whom it came with the freshness of discovery, what would impress him would not be Christ’s tenacity, but the variety and the freedom of His life. Never was there a career that bore so little trace of being lived in accordance with a plan. Never were deeds so happily spontaneous; never were words so sweetly incidental. To every moment was perfect adaptation as if that were the only moment of existence. This hiding of intensity is mirrored in the great paintings of the face of Christ. In the galleries of the old masters I do not know one picture where the face of Christ is a determined face. For the artists felt with that poetic feeling which wins nearer to the heart of things than argument, that the earnestness of Jesus lay too deep to be portrayed by brush upon the canvas.

 

But when we reach the inner life of Christ, there passes a wonderful change over our thought. We slowly awake, amid all the spontaneity, to one tremendous and increasing purpose. As underneath the screaming of the seabirds we hear the ceaseless breakers on the shore, as through the rack and drift of driving clouds we catch the radiance of one unchanging star, so gradually, back of all stir and change and the varied and free activity of Christ, we discern the pressure of a mighty purpose moving without a swerve towards its goal. From the hour of His boyhood when He said to Mary, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business,” on to the hour of triumph on the cross when He cried with a loud voice, “It is finished,” unhasting and unresting, without one check or falter, the face of Jesus is set in one direction; and it is when we come to recognize that unity hidden amid the luxuriance of freedom that we wake to the sublime earnestness of Christ. I think that the apostles hardly recognized it till He set His face steadfastly towards Jerusalem. Before that, they were always offering suggestions: after that, they offered them no more. They were amazed, we read; they were afraid. The eagerness of Jesus overwhelmed them. At last they knew His majesty of will and were awestruck at the earnestness of Christ.

 

 

 

Christ’s Certain Knowledge of His Limited Time

 

There were many reasons for that wholehearted zeal which it does not fall to me to touch on here. But one was the certain knowledge of the Lord that there were only twelve hours in His day. Before His birth, in His pre-existent life, there had been no rising or setting of the sun. After His death, in the life beyond the grave, the day would be endless, for “there is no night there.” But here on earth with a mighty work to do and to get finished before His side was pierced, Christ was aroused into triumphant energy by the thought of the determined time. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.” That must—what is it but the shadow of sunset and the breath of the twilight that was soon to fall? A day at its longest—what a little space! Twelve hours—they are ringing to evensong already! Under that power the tide that seemed asleep moved on “too full for sound or foam.”

 

It is always very wonderful to me that Christ thus felt the shortness of the time. This Child of Eternity heard with quickened ear the muffled summons of the fleeting hours. It is only occasionally that we hearken to it; far more commonly we seek to silence it. Most men, as Professor Lecky says, are afraid to look time in the face. But Christ was never afraid to look time in the face; steadily He eyed the sinking sands, till moved to His depths by the urgency of days, the zeal of the house of His Father ate Him up. Have you awakened to that compelling thought, or do you live as if your sun would never set? There are but twelve hours in the day, and it will be sunset before you dream of it. Get done what God has sent you here to do. Wait not for the fool’s phantom of tomorrow—Act, act today, act in the living present!

 

 

 

Christ’s Fearlessness

 

In the next place, our text illuminates Christ’s fearlessness, and that indeed is the textual meaning of it, for it was when the disciples were trying to alarm Him that Jesus silenced their suggestions so. “Master,” they said, “It is a dangerous thing to show Yourself at Bethany. Remember how You were stoned on Your last visit; it will be almost certain death to go thither again.” And it was then, to silence all their terror and with a courage as sublime as it was simple that Jesus asked, “Are there not twelve hours in the day ?” What did He mean? He meant, “I have my day. Its dawn and its sunset have been fixed by God. Nothing can shorten it and nothing can prolong it. Till the curfew of God rings out, I cannot die.” It was that steadying sense of the divine disposal which made the Christ so absolutely fearless and braced Him for every “clenched antagonism” that rose with menace upon the path of duty. When Dr. Livingstone was in the heart of Africa, he wrote a memorable sentence in his diary. He was ill and far away from any friend, and he was deserted by his medicine-carrier. But he was willing to go anywhere provided it was forward, and what he wrote with a trembling hand was this: “I am immortal till my work is done.” That was the faith of Paul and of Martin Luther, the faith of Oliver Cromwell and of Livingstone. They had caught the fearless spirit of the Master who knew there were twelve hours in the day.

 

 

 

The Strength in Knowing That God Appoints Our Times

 

Now it is always a source of buoyant strength when a man comes to see that his way is ordered. There is a quiet courage that is unmistakable in one who is certain he is led by God. But remember, according to the Master’s doctrine, our times are fixed as surely as our ways; and if we are here with a certain work to do which in the purposes of God must be fulfilled, no harm can touch us nor is there power in death till it draws to sunset and to evening star. What is it that makes the Turk such a brave soldier that with all his vices we cannot but admire him? It is his conviction of a relentless fate which he cannot hasten yet cannot hope to shun. In the name of freedom, Christ rejects that fatalism; but on the ruins of it He erects another. It is the fatalism of a love that is divine, for it includes the end in the beginning. Never shirk dangers on the path of duty. On the path of duty one is always safest. Let a man be careful that he does his task, and God will take care of the task-doing man. For always there are twelve hours in the day, and though the clouds should darken into storm, they cannot hasten the appointed time when it is night.

 

And just here we ought to bear in mind that the true measurement of life is not duration. We live in deeds, not breaths—it is not time; it is intensity that is life’s measurement. Twelve hours of joy, what a brief space they are! Twelve hours of pain, what an eternity! We take the equal hours which the clock gives, and we mould them in the matrix of our hearts. Was it the dawn that crimsoned in the east as Romeo stood with Juliet at the window? It seemed but a moment since the casement opened, and—”It is my lady, O it is my love.” But to the sufferer tossing on her sickbed and hearing every hour the chiming in the dark, that night went wearily with feet of lead, and it seemed as if the dawn would never break. “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” said Jesus—yet Jesus died when He was thirty-three. The dial of God has got no minute hands; its hours are measured by service and by sacrifice. Call no life fragmentary. Call it not incomplete. Think thee how love abbreviates the hours. If God be love, time may be fiery-footed, and the goal be won far earlier than we ever dreamed.

 

 

 

Christ’s Restlessness

 

 

 

Then lastly, and in a word or two, our text illuminates Christ’s restlessness. For never was there a life of such untiring labor that breathed such a spirit of unruffled calm. We talk about our busy modern city, and many of us are busy in the city, but for a life of interruption and distraction, give me the life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Some of us could hardly live without the hills—a day in their solitude is benediction; but when Jesus retired to that fellowship of lonely places, even there He was pressed and harassed by the crowd. Every day was thronged with incident or danger. There was no leisure so much as to eat. Now He was teaching—now He was healing—now He was parrying some cruel attack. Yet through it all, with all its stir and movement, there is a brooding calm upon the heart of Christ that is only comparable to a wave less sea asleep in the stillness of a summer evening. Some men are calm because they do not feel. We call it quiet, and it is callousness. But Christ being sinless was infinitely sensitive—quick to respond to every touch and token. Yet He talked without contradiction of His peace—”My peace that the world cannot give or take away”—and down in the depths of that unfathomed peace was the thought of the twelve hours in the day. Christ knew that if God had given Him a twelve hours’ work, God would give Him the twelve hours to do it in. To every task its time, and to every time its task, that was one great method of the Master. And no man will ever be calm as Christ was calm who cannot halt in the midst of the stir and say, “My peace”; who cannot stop for a moment in the busiest whirl and say to himself, “My times are in Thy hand.” God never blesses unnecessary labor. That is the labor of the thirteenth hour.

All that God calls us to and all that love demands is fitted with perfect wisdom to the twelve.

Therefore be restful; do not be nervous and fussy; leave a little leisure for smiling and for sleep.

There is no time to squander, but there is time enough—are there not twelve hours in the day?

 

The Way Of Spiritual Growth


Rembrandt - Apostle Paul - WGA19120

Rembrandt – Apostle Paul – WGA19120 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before we can or will consider the laws of spiritual growth, we need to have a real concern for that growth. There must be in us a strong sense of its importance and necessity. We must realize in a living way that:

1. The measure of our ultimate satisfaction to the Lord will be the measure of the fulness of Christ.

2. The measure of our value to others will depend entirely upon our own spiritual measure: not merely upon what we believe, or think, or say.

3. The measure of our own joy and satisfaction will be according to what fulness of Christ we know and live in.

Because these three things constitute the whole nature of, and reason for, our being called “into the fellowship of His (God’s) Son”, the New Testament is ninety percent occupied with the growth and maturity of believers.

As there are definite laws of growth in the physical and mental man, so there are in that of the “inward man”. Some of these are quite obvious, such as proper and suitable food, pure air, regular exercise, and systematic self-discipline. To violate or neglect any of these laws of body and mind is to arrest development, limit capacity, and open the door to adverse and destructive elements.

There are corresponding laws, the counterpart of the above in the spiritual life, with similar effects for good or ill in observance or neglect. We are not taking up these particular factors here, but are specifying three other although related laws of spiritual growth. The first of these is
That Unattractive thing — Obedience.

No one naturally likes that word. It is unpleasant from infancy onward. It’s very essence seems to imply the presence of at least a peril of disobedience, and the universal natural dislike of it, more than implies, it proves the presence of a wish to be free from any obligation or law.

Yes, that primeval revolt, and break from God which was the beginning of actual sin has entered as the Serpent’s poison into the very blood stream of the entire creation, and the very mention of obedience stirs a secret dislike, if not resentment.

It would take too much space to show how, through all time, the one thing which has been God’s supreme obstacle to man’s relationship with Himself has been this inherent disobedience as the active expression of unbelief. On the other hand, it would take volumes to show fully how every movement into fellowship with God in His great purposes has been based upon a demanded obedience of faith; a test, a challenge and a conflict issuing in a willing capitulation to the Divine will in some general or particular direction.

Here, our only intention is to point out and emphasize the fact that there is no possibility of the slightest true and genuine spiritual progress and growth beyond the point where light received, the Lord showing His mind, has not had a definite response in practical obedience. Time does not change this, and no matter how long we go on or imagine that the matter is passed over, when at length the real question of approval for particular usefulness arises, we shall be brought right back to the hindrance of that reserved obedience. It is like the presence and secret working of some injury in the physical system which flares up when a particular demand is made years after. God does not live in time. All past and future is present with Him.

But there is a realm of obedience which is not law but love, and love transforms the unlovely to delight.

Hence the Apostle Paul, in calling for an obedience which would make possible a spiritual enlargement, puts the matter on the basis of love, and then gives the supreme example of the obedience of love.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, Who… became obedient” (Phil. 2:5).
It is those whose love for the Lord leads to swift actions in relation to light received, who make swift progress, and are seen to grow up in beauty before the Lord. On the other hand, those who are careless or rebellious when the Lord has spoken, and tardy in response, that is practical response, are marked by repeated defeats, recurrent bouts of spiritual cloudiness, and inability to meet an emergency demand when it arises. Too often this lack of obedience, or positive disobedience, is due to its origin in Satan’s Pride .

The second thing to be mentioned here is

That Unrecognized Thing — Adjusting.

One of the most common causes of spiritual stratification is fixedness (fixed mindset). It is peculiarly common in the realm where Christian truth has been reduced to a fixed form, particular order, system of things, greed and creed. The doctrines of Christianity are such and such; so many says.

The accepted and established ideas of Christian service and methods are so-and-so. Peter had his fixed position as to Jews and Gentiles, and, because of it, came perilously near missing the larger purpose of God, and presented the Lord with a real battleground in his Christianity. It has so very largely resolved itself into a finality of position, which results in a closed-door to fuller revelation as to what God means by His Word.

The fact is, that God only gives us enough light to get us to take the next step, but when that step has been taken, we are in the way of being shown that much more was meant by the Lord than He showed then (this is clearly shown in His dealings and relationship with all listed Heroes of Faith). The first expectations of many servants of the Lord in the Bible, expectations resultant from something said by the Lord to them, were later seen to have been not all that He really meant, but there was something more, and perhaps other than they thought.

Can anyone really dispute that full light very often means a shedding of things and ideas that we thought were of God? Is it not true that, as we go on, we find that certain leading of the Lord were tactical, intended to get us to a certain place where alone we could learn of a greater necessity? There is very much of this kind of thing in relation to both doctrine, practice, and service its nature and ways, and while Divine principles will never change to all eternity, the clothing of those principles may vary and change with both dispensations and generations and stages of our own lives.

In all this, while Truth remains unalterable the only way to grow is to be adjustable and not static and fixed.

Do your religious traditions bind you in such a way that you are not free to move with God? If He sees this to be so, He may not give you the light necessary for enlargement. But if He sees that, although you may be in a comparatively false position, your heart is really set on His fulness at any cost, He may present you with light which will test your comitment severely.

See the case of the disciples of John the Baptist transferring their discipleship to Christ. See the case of Peter and what happened in the home of Cornelius. See also the case of Apollos in Acts 18:24–28; as also the disciples mentioned earlier in that chapter.

Our third principle of growth is: That Critical Point Of Committal.

Very often the whole mounting avalanche of Divine working in our lives, an avalanche built up as silently and slowly as the added snowflakes in the Alps, just waits to move with power and overwhelming for that final yet all-inclusive act of committal. We wait; we think, wrestle, contemplate, analyze, go round and round; we reason and argue; we recognize that there is nothing else for it, and even say so; we even come to the point when the matter is settled in our conviction and acceptance, and we think that we are over the hedge, but nothing happens, nothing eventuate. Why is it?

The Lord knows more than we do about the deceitfulness of our hearts.

A covenant has two sides, and in the Old Testament two sacrifices were connected with a covenant; one representing God, the other the offerer; both were killed and the two parties to the covenant were represented as passing between the two (See Abraham in Gen. 15).

There has to be a slaying of something on our side! In other words, God is waiting until we have burned our boats behind us. Though we may have approached the shore of His will and way for us, there will be nothing from God’s side while our boats are just left on the shore so that, if things don’t go quite as we expect, we still can retreat. That boat is an evidence of doubt or reservation. It must be burned, so that whatever the consequences we have no alternatives.

The young believer will not grow unless he or she makes a committal in testimony, so letting others know where they stand. The law holds good in every stage of development and progress. If policy governs, or fear, or how such a step will affect our prospects, or any consideration which conflicts with what we know in our deepest hearts is the way indicated for us, for us, those things are boats or bridges representing a false “Safety first” policy. As when the bleating lambs were preserved by Saul the finger of God will point to them and say, What is the meaning of those boats?

God will wait for the full and final capitulation without a reservation, and to defer is only to be involved in confusion, and either becoming a misfit, having missed God’s first best, or losing out altogether.

I leave you at this stage with the revelation in Ephesians 1: 15 – 19.
Shalom
Rebecca

Reference: T Sparks

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

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