A LESSON IN GODS WAYS
by George H. Warnock
First Printing: May 1982 (Canada)
Second Printing: December 1984 (Canada)
Third Printing: December 1989 (U.S.A.)
Fourth Printing: June 1994 (Canada)
"SHEW ME NOW THY WAY THAT I MAY KNOW THEE..." (Exodus 33.13)
"He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel"
~ D I V I S I O N S I N C O N T E N T S ~THE HYSSOP... that springeth out of the wall
THE CEDAR... AND THE HYSSOP
"MIND NOT HIGH THINGS"
JESUS CRUCIFIED IN WEAKNESS
THE WEAKNESS AND FOOLISHNESS OF GOD
AN ARK OF GOPHER WOOD FOR NOAH
A SAVIOUR FOR EGYPT
A DELIVERER FOR ISRAEL
A CRIPPLED ARMY AGAINST THE CANAANITES
A BARLEY LOAF AGAINST THE MIDIANITES
A HELPLESS BABE EXPOSED TO THE WRATH OF HEROD
THE PEOPLE OF THE WAY
ABRAHAM, A FOREIGNER IN HIS OWN LAND
FROM ALTAR TO ALTAR
SETTING OUR GOALS
IDENTIFYING WITH HIS WAY
AS THE RAIN AND AS THE SNOW
WHENCE SHALL WE BUY BREAD?
BRING THEM TO ME!
JUST A BARLEY LOAF!
"SEED FOR THE SOWER"
GIVE ATTENDANCE TO READING
HE SPAKE OF THE CEDAR... AND THE HYSSOP
INCARNATION-THE HUMILIATION OF GOD
HYSSOP--and the PASSOVER
THE LAW OF THE LEPER
WHERE DWELLEST THOU? COME AND SEE!
THE ASHES OF A HEIFER
PURGE ME WITH HYSSOP
TAKE THE LITTLE BOOK, AND EAT IT
THE HYSSOP... that springeth out of the wall
Today is Saturday, May 8, 1982. This is my day off from work... so I seek to plan things somewhat, in order to accomplish the many things that have to be done. It is springtime... and there is gardening to do shortly. Springtime comes late up here in Canada, at least where we live; and if we are going to profit from our short summers we have to be diligent when the weather is favorable. But today there is fresh snow on the ground. Not much, and it will soon go; but today it means I can work in the shop. I am a woodworker, and I have a pile of cedar wood cut up and sanded and ready to assemble. We have four daughters and three sons; and for each of the three daughters I have made a cedar chest. Now it is about time for our youngest daughter to graduate from high school, and the rumor is that she is expecting her cedar box. And so I will work on it today, and with the few hours I can spare here and there I should have it ready for her graduation day.
I have a good workshop; the fire has been lit; and I am about ready to go. It stays rather cool in these parts till well on in May, nestled away as we are in the snowcapped and rugged mountains of southern British Columbia. Very beautiful country... a land filled with flowing streams and brooks... many of them you can just stoop down and take a drink any time you wish, without fear of pollution. There are beautiful mountains clothed with all manner of trees: tall stately cedars, pine, fir, and larch (commonly called tamarack by the locals). There are rich pasture lands, and fertile valleys. But most of the country is very rugged and mountainous--and as you drive through isolated areas and come across some old dilapidated log cabin you cannot help but admire the rugged pioneer spirit of the early settlers, who chose to settle in such challenging areas and set about the task of making a living off the land. Somehow you cannot help but feel that they had it better than we, despite the hardships they had to endure; caught up, as we are, in the vortex of this civilized life as we know it, where all you know is the monotonous routine of duty on the wheels of industry ...cogs in a crazy machine that would keep you whirling ...for what purpose you know not. But apparently it is all so very necessary and so very important ...and your success is rated for you ahead of time in terms of how big a cog you can become in how big a wheel. As Christians we have to be ever alert to the fact that we are "in this world" but are not intended to be a part of it.
So today I have my plans. The fire is burning and I will finish, or at least make a good start on this cedar chest that I must build. But I cant seem to get at it. Last Sunday at our fellowship I ministered a little on the topic "The Hyssop that springeth out of the wall"--and afterward I felt inclined to put it in print. Perhaps this afternoon I will make a start. Maybe I can put a few hours each week on it and get it in print by early summer. So I will get at my work. But as I pace around my shop I have no peace.
Many times I have discovered the will of God to be just as simple as this. I think our main problem with the will of God is the thought that God only cares about the great and the mighty happenings... everything else we fret and strive about ourselves. We have to come to that place when the will of God is like the air we breathe... it just comes naturally as we desire to serve Him and obey the still small voice of His Spirit, And so I walk back into the house and get settled down at my typewriter.
We generally refer to ourselves as a "fellowship," for we are just a handful of people that the Lord seems to have joined together for some meaningful purpose. We are not particularly trying to "build" anything, for we have learned that Christ is building His Church, and except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. We do have a burden for Gods people and we earnestly anticipate the day when each member of the Body will be fitly joined and knit together in the Spirit, and empowered to fulfill his role in a very meaningful way unto the edifying of the Body. We continually emphasize the fact that if there is to be true "fellowship," then there must be a mutual concern, a mutual sharing one with the other, and a mutual receiving one from the other. By this we are not referring to everyone giving their little sermon every time we come together. That is not fellowship. The sharing that is implied in true New Testament fellowship is a sharing with the other of what God has shared with us. And therefore to some extent we discourage talking, if God is not talking... and we discourage "doing," if God is not doing. At the same time we seek to keep a balance in our teaching lest some who have something from the Lord might hesitate to share it because they feel not quite confident whether or not it is truly from the Lord. We would not bring anyone into this kind of bondage. We profess that none of us have as yet come into the true mountain of the Lords inheritance in any degree of fullness. We still see through a glass darkly. There are still many areas where we long for that greater clarity of vision and understanding in the ways of the Lord, that there might go forth a very positive and assured Word from His lips. And yet, even in our lack of understanding, and even in our weakness, we rejoice so many times when someone, perhaps falteringly, bares his or her heart concerning something that God has been dealing with them about... some way of the Lord that is new to them... some Word of the Lord that has come to mean much to them. And because it means so much to them, and they had the courage to share it with the rest, it means much to us also. For we have discovered a little of what Paul meant when he said: "That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus" (Philemon 6). The thought seems to be: "that as we truly fellowship together in the Spirit we are helping to bring one another into a deeper appreciation and understanding of the riches of His grace and blessing." Fellowship, therefore, can accomplish the purposes of God in the believers life in a manner that no amount of sermon-tasting and church-going can do; for in fellowship there is a sharing of the Ways of the Lord one with another, thus enriching us with a deeper understanding of Truth, and a more meaningful appropriation of Life. For let us never forget that Jesus would have us to know Him who is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.
THE CEDAR... AND THE HYSSOP
"And he (Solomon) spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall," (1 Kings 4:33).
For many years I have quoted this passage or referred to it, with reference to the wisdom that God had given to Solomon. But it was just this past week that I seemed to catch the full impact of what he said. The man to whom God had given such wisdom had insight far beyond that which could be attained by natural learning, and he was able to behold intent and purpose in what God had created. God had left this understanding with man in the beginning... but he soon lost it by his own perverseness, all of which could be traced back to "unthankfulness" of heart (See Romans 1:21). But to Solomon, God had given great wisdom and understanding, and he was able to write with purpose and meaning concerning Gods creation. Besides he wrote many songs, 1005 in all--only one of which is recorded in Scripture, the Song of Songs.
The range of Solomons writings was "from the Cedar... even unto the hyssop." Here we have an indication of the nature of the hyssop. He is speaking of two extremes. Now the Cedar was something magnificent; and throughout Scripture the Cedars of Lebanon speak of power, stateliness, grandeur and usefulness for a house, temple or furniture. Kings and great ones of the earth are poetically referred to as Cedars of Lebanon. Solomons great temple was built from such material, cut from the mountains by the forestry workers of Tyre, and shipped to the site of the Temple. Carvings were made in the cedar boards, of colocynths and flowers. Some of the furniture was made of cedar, and covered over with gold. But of what value was the hyssop? It served one purpose only.
"MIND NOT HIGH THINGS"
We can understand how a man gifted with wisdom would write about great and lofty things; but God would show us that men of wisdom are concerned also about little things. It reminds us of Pauls admonition: "Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate," (Romans 12:16).
Much reference is made in Scripture to both the Cedar and the Hyssop; but whereas the Cedar speaks of stature and honour and glory, the Hyssop always relates to sacrifice... and therefore to humility, weakness and contrition of heart. Other than this I knew nothing about the plant itself. But after having been impressed to minister on the "hyssop" relative to its weakness and sacrificial character, I felt to put it in writing; and I have since looked up a number of reference books concerning it. I found it grows in dry places, out in the full sun. It is particularly suited to a rockery, and this may be inferred in the statement that it "springeth out of the wall"--perhaps a terraced rock wall. It is low-growing, up to about 2 feet. It is native to Egypt. It has strong wiry stems, with bunches of flowers and leaves. Produces small bluish-purple flowers, and has a sweet fragrance. It is a bitter herb, belonging to the mint family, and was once used for medicinal purposes. It seemed to grow plentifully in Egypt, for on the Passover night it was readily obtainable to every Israelitish family, who would use it for the sprinkling of the blood. It was used for various sacrificial purposes in the Levitical order, and therefore must have grown extensively in the wilderness also. It is always associated with "sacrifice"... so that even at Calvary, when the supreme Sacrifice was being offered, mention is again made of the lowly "hyssop."
Solomon, a great and Wise man, was impressed to write about the weak, insignificant "hyssop." Great men are always small enough to take note of little things. They are concerned about the weak. Jesus stood still at the cry of a blind beggar. True greatness reveals itself in areas of meekness, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. The world considers a meek man to be a weak man. But God considers the meek to be strong. They shall inherit the earth; because in their meekness and weakness, their confidence is not in themselves but in Another. The weak must assume an attitude of defensiveness; but the strong are prepared to let the Truth defend itself. So when the weak assume positions of power and authority, as is often the case, they must use that power and authority to bolster their own inadequacy. The meek are strong, because they are prepared to commit their cause into the hands of God who judgeth righteously.
As I ministered about the hyssop I could not help but think of our own little fellowship. It seems so fragile. What is it that keeps us gathering together week after week? Just a handful of us... but we will travel 30, 50, 70 or a 100 miles a week just to gather with a handful of people in someones home. But when you come to know Gods ways a little, what does it matter whether there be 20 or 30 people, or 1,000? God can use 20 as well as 2,000... 1 as well as 10,000. It doesnt really matter, as long as we are faithful; and as long as God is directing us in this way. But how strange this may sound to those who have not known Gods ways?
How long will we continue to gather in this manner? We certainly do not know; for we have no plans to fulfill of our own. And we are reminded that the precious "hyssop" having served its purpose was thrown away! Precious as it is in the eyes of the Lord, it was made for sacrifice. And every sacrifice that delights the heart of God requires it. God has therefore put it within the reach of all. It grows there at our feet, lightly esteemed by most... but prepared of the Lord for sacrifice... a certain kind of sacrifice: the sacrifice of a broken spirit and a contrite heart. It is not something beyond our reach. The elders of Israel had no problem finding it... apparently it was right outside their doors, and when the blood had to be sprinkled on the doorposts, the hyssop was readily obtained. When the last Passover Lamb was offered, hyssop was there too, and readily obtainable. When Jesus cried "I thirst," a soldier bunched some hyssop together and lifted it to Jesus mouth with a sponge full of sour wine. He must use hyssop to fulfill the Scriptures, and God had provided it even on Mount Calvary! Then it was discarded... it had served its purpose.
But what waste? And to what purpose is this waste?
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:24,25).
JESUS CRUCIFIED IN WEAKNESS
"...but He liveth by the power of God."
What a stench must have filled the atmosphere when the blood flowed freely from Jewish altars, and the flesh of bulls and goats was consumed on the Altar of Burnt Offering! But God said the offering on the Altar of Burnt Offering would be unto Him as "a sweet-smelling savour." What a stench it has been in the nostrils of men as they behold the Son of God dying the death of a criminal on Calvarys brow! But God looked down that day and smelled a "sweet savour" from this the only burnt offering that ever really delighted His heart. And the only reason He smelled a "sweet savour" in former offerings was because God was anticipating the Day when His own Son would become the one and only Sacrifice that would put an end to sacrifice and make an end of sin. For this was the true Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world. The hyssop is a lowly shrub; and God must stoop low to smell the incense of Calvary. And great men ever since Calvary have found grace in His sight to humble themselves and stoop low that they too might partake of that same incense.
THE WEAKNESS AND FOOLISHNESS OF GOD
"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23,24).
So He is to them that believe. But to those who believe not, God seems to do some very foolish things, and to manifest a lot of weakness for One who is supposed to have made a whole Universe. However, it is in these very things that God is pleased to reveal His glory and His wisdom: to baffle the wisdom of the wise, and to bring to nought the counsels of men. Therefore, in the midst of the apostasy of modern day Christianity, and the hypocrisy and artificiality of modern day religion, we who know somewhat of Gods ways can rejoice in the fact that it is just like God, in times like these, to rend the heavens and come down in power and great glory... and yet in ways that will seem strange and foolish in the eyes of the world. We are confident that the darkness and the gloom about us will once again become the fitting background for the display of the gems of His glory. Some good Christian people are trying to set the stage for God to work, but God always has to bypass these efforts, for He has prepared the stage upon which He will reveal His sons who are moving in Harmony with His will. For it is consistent with Gods character and way, and with the Jealousy of His Glory, that the greater the work He will perform in the earth--the greater will be the measure of weakness and foolishness that He will cause an unbelieving world to behold.
AN ARK OF GOPHER WOOD FOR NOAH
God told Noah to prepare an ark for the saving of His house; and by this act he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. God could have directed him and his family to proceed to some secret mountain peak, and sustained them there... and then controlled the floodwaters so that they would not reach such heights. But instead He gives direction for the preparation of an ark, confounding the wise men of his age, and confounding the wise men of every age since then who continue to scoff at this story as a mere fairy tale. Scientifically it would seem just impossible to house so many animals, and to store enough food to sustain them for so long a time. Of course they do not realize that God may well have performed ten thousand miracles to accomplish this task. One armful of hay could have fed every grass-eating animal on that boat for a whole year. One jar of grain could have fed Noah and all his family for a year, or ten years if need be. But God tells us nothing of all this, one way or the other. Men of faith continue to believe the story; for they know that the God who preserved Noah and his family was the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, who fed the five thousand with a mere handful of bread and fish; and who taught us, by word and deed, that His God is our God, and the God of the impossible.
A SAVIOUR FOR EGYPT
Consider the man Joseph. Destined of the Lord to preserve life in the earth in the day of famine. But God deliberately allows him to be sold as a captive into Egypt. His brothers make a deliberate attempt to frustrate the dreams that he had. When God speaks, and we know it is God, how assuring to know that anything man might do to hinder what God has declared... God Himself will carefully weave their evil intentions into the pattern of His purpose, and literally use the evil designs of men to fulfill what He has declared.
A DELIVERER FOR ISRAEL
Consider Israel in their bondage. The same God who arranged the stage for the preservation of His people in Egypt in the time of famine, must now arrange the stage for their deliverance some four hundred years later. This time the purposes of God were wrapped up in a little baby named Moses. Yet behold the "weakness" and the "foolishness" of Gods ways. He puts it in the heart of Amram and Jochebed to make a little fragile ark out of flimsy reeds, and set the ark adrift on the backwaters of the Nile! What foolishness! And yet what majesty of wisdom For God had it all arranged: Moses, the great Deliverer, was to be reared in the house of Pharaoh; and Moses mother, from a very poor and enslaved family, would be paid wages for nursing her very own son. And so the ONE CHILD in all Israel upon whom the special purposes of God rested would be raised with the protection of the power of Egypt... while at the same time all the wrath of Pharaoh was poured upon the little captive nation, and the male children of Israel were being slain.
A CRIPPLED ARMY AGAINST THE CANAANITES
Consider the second generation of Israel, after the Exodus. God would take a people, unskilled in the art of war, into a land that was inhabited with powerful enemies, and drive them out. But weak as Israel was, God would weaken the nation still further: not while they were on the Eastern side of Jordan in relative safety, but after they had crossed over and had encamped right opposite Jericho, God commanded that all the young men in the nation were to be circumcised. And all at one time. Thus all the armies of Israel, weak as they were, were for a time completely incapacitated and left totally exposed to the enemies in the land. With what result? The terror of the Lord gripped the inhabitants of Jericho, and they locked and barred the gates in fear of the miracle-working God of Israel.
Again, consider their war tactics. Priests in white robes and carrying a little box covered with gold, and blowing trumpets... marching about Jericho every day... and on the seventh day going about seven times. Foolishness? But God used this kind of foolishness and weakness to terrify the enemy and to cause the walls of Jericho to fall flat.
A BARLEY LOAF AGAINST THE MIDIANITES
Consider the man Gideon. Israel had been oppressed by the Midianites for a long time. Any grain that they were able to grow was snatched away by the enemy as soon as it was harvested. God appeared to Gideon and gave him a charge to wage war against the enemy and deliver his people. And so naturally Gideon began to muster the army... not too many responded, but he had a word from God and Gideon took courage with the handful that came to the battle. He only had 32,000 men compared to the hosts of Midian which numbered about 135,000. But God looked at Gideons little army and announced: "You have too many " Good Christian leaders everywhere are trying to mobilize the forces of Christianity to wage warfare against the forces of evil; but God comes on the scene and begins to demobilize. Twenty-two thousand went home out of fear... they might die in battle and lose all. But once again God looked down and said, "You still have too many..." What would Gideon do now? God Himself would single out the ones that would qualify for His army, and 9,700 more were sent home. God said, "All you need are the 300 I have left with you... this way I will get all the Glory." God likened Gideons little band to a "barley loaf" and with that flimsy, insignificant little army God would destroy all the armed might of the Midianites, 135,000 strong. How we need to learn Gods Way!
A HELPLESS BABE EXPOSED TO THE WRATH OF HEROD
In the story of Christ we have the most beautiful example of all, as to the weakness and the foolishness of God. Incarnation in itself was an act whereby the Mighty God of Jacob became weak. But God would add a few finishing touches to make His "weakness" even weaker. The Child would be born to a defenseless, humble couple and would not have the protection that royalty is generally entitled to. This defenseless Child would be placed in the hands of a young woman, a virgin, to nurture and care for until He became of age. Further, they would not be secluded in a little town in Galilee; but because of the decree of the governor the couple would have to journey to Bethlehem for registration. While there the Promised One who would bruise the Serpents head would be born, But the Serpent had active control of the most powerful empire the world had seen up to that time, and the king issued a decree to slay all the young males anywhere in the vicinity of Bethlehem and surrounding areas. Unknown to the "god of this world" everything that he was inspiring his evil servants to do was coinciding exactly with Gods eternal purpose, and helping to bring about Satans own destruction.
There are so many, many illustrations in the Scripture of Gods strategy of war that it seems strange that the Church has lost sight of it. When will the Church of Christ come to the realization that God does not save by sword or by spear, and that it is "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord"?
God always delights in using the weak things of the world to bring to nought the things that are strong; and the base and the despised things of the world to overthrow the wisdom of the wise.
The Mighty God who hangs the world upon nothing does not hesitate to suspend the full weight of His purposes from an invisible, silken thread of His own wisdom!
THE PEOPLE OF THE WAY
Jesus is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE-not merely the way-shower, the truth-giver and the life-imparter. In other words, He doesnt just tell us what to do, explain to us what He means, and give to us a portion of His own life. We must become ONE with Him in all three areas. We must be fully identified with Him. Then as we begin to identify with Him we discover areas of Truth and Life that we could never discover through much study and effort. The people of the New Testament Church in their early beginnings used to refer to themselves as the people of the Way. I used to ponder this a lot. Saul persecuted "this Way," and after his conversion he testifies that he worshipped God after the "Way" that men called heresy. Gods people are a people of the WAY. They are going somewhere... not after they die, but NOW. They have purpose, vision, enlightenment; and are but pilgrims and strangers in the earth. Like Abraham of old Gods people know that they are in the land that God promised them, but it is still not "home." All the promises of God in Christ Jesus are meaningful to us and very real, but if we are truly a people of the Way, as Abraham was, we have that feeling that we are not really at home... there just must be something more to Life than we have yet experienced. Take note of this: Abraham was in the land that God had promised him and his Seed forever... but he just knew in his heart that there must be much more to the "land" than what he had seen as he walked through the length and breadth of it. He confessed that he was but a "pilgrim and a stranger"--and the Holy Spirit reminds us that such a testimony as this indicated that he and his Seed were "looking for a City which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). (And dont forget the true Seed of Abraham is "Christ" and those who are in Him--See Galatians 3:13-29.) All the blessed assurances of the New Testament concerning our position in Christ and our blessedness in Him were never intended of the Lord to cause us to relax in the joy and contentment of that blessedness--but to create within us a hunger to attain to that high calling which as yet reaches far beyond our grasp. Happy is that man or woman who comes to that place in his walk with God when--in spite of all the knowledge and understanding he may have concerning his inheritance in Christ Jesus, he still finds it within his heart to say: "Yes, I thank thee, O Lord, for thy Truth, and for all you have given... but I am not fully satisfied... there is something lacking... what is it Lord?" For then the Lord who is ever pleased with that individual who delights in Him more than he delights in his knowledge of the Bible... the Lord Himself is pleased to reveal His Way more clearly. Then that hungry one comes to understand that the reason he cannot be satisfied in his present state is because in walking with God, God will not let him be satisfied. And God will not let him be satisfied because there is more, much more that God desires to lead him into.
There is a difference between being "dissatisfied" and "unsatisfied." We must always be thankful for everything God has done for us and brought us into; yet ever desirous of going on with God into the fulness of His intention. Always satisfied with the fresh manna that He gives daily for our every need, but even as we partake of it there remains that unsatisfied hunger to partake of the Old Corn of the land of our inheritance. There is more, much more. There are still heights in God to attain; there are still oceans and depths in God to explore, that we never thought were within the realm of possibility in this life.
ABRAHAM, A FOREIGNER IN HIS OWN LAND
As we begin to walk a little in Gods Way, so do we begin to identify with the people of the Way in the Bible. Now we can understand Abraham a little more. He had entered into the land that God had given him. He had walked through the length of it and through the breadth of it. But still something within cried out, "This is good, but I am not satisfied..." And why could he not be satisfied? Because God would not let him be satisfied... because God would enlarge his vision. In the seed and in the promise of blessedness that he had received from God there lay dormant a germ of something far, far greater that God desired to unfold to him. And therefore all this weary wandering through the land of promise was necessary in order that this germ of promise might blossom forth into something vastly different and vastly more glorious than a nice piece of real estate. As Abraham fretted over unfulfilled promises it is evident he saw little of what God really had in mind. Nevertheless God was faithfully leading him in pathways of obedience that would elevate his vision and cause this man of faith to look beyond the little land in which he walked. If we walk in Gods ways this invariably happens. The prize of His promises soon gives way to higher things, better things, more heavenly things. Abraham soon discovered that he didnt really belong there... even in beautiful Canaan. He was but "a stranger and a sojourner" (Genesis 23:4). Hebron must have been very wonderful ...but still Abraham was not at home. He was a foreigner in his own land! He began to look for a better City, a "better country, that is, a heavenly." The real City for which he looked had "foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." (See Hebrews 11:10,16.) The nations God promised went far beyond the ones that would spring from Ishmael and Isaac. "The WORLD" would become his inheritance, as the true "Seed" was implanted in the hearts of men all over the earth. (See Romans 4:13; Galatians 3:16,28,29.) The "City" that he looked for would one day descend upon the earth. And one day Abraham will stand at the head of the line and will look upon his Seed which has sprung forth out of every tribe, and kindred, and tongue, and nation, and people. There will be the red, and the yellow, and the black, and the white. And Abraham will be able to say, "These are my children, for they have my faith." Then Abraham will step to one side and take his place with the rest, and Jesus will include his father Abraham in the company of His own sons (for "instead of thy fathers shall be thy children," Psalms 45:16). And Jesus will say, "Behold, I and the children whom Thou hast given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel," (Isaiah 8:18)... a people who are the Seed of Abraham, because "That Seed is Christ" --whether they be from the various countries of Europe, Russia, India, or the little remnant from the land of Israel and the Arabic nations surrounding them, or the people of China, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or North and South America.., but the list is getting too numerous to mention. Let us just put it this way: "For Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation," (Revelation 5:9). Peoples from the far north and the far south... from the far east and the far west. If they truly believe in Christ, then are they "the Seed of Abraham, and heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:29).
As citizens of this country or that, we all recognize the natural barriers that exist between men of different cultures and different racial backgrounds. But God, looking upon mankind with His own standard of righteousness and glory, and with the judgments of the Cross in view, declares: "THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:22, 23). As Christians let us stop wasting our efforts trying to rebuild the walls of partition that God tore down at the awful expense of the Cross. For God is totally committed to the judgments of the Cross whether nationalistic segments of mankind are or not.
FROM ALTAR TO ALTAR
What we began to say was that it took this wandering through the land in a walk of obedience... it took periods of famine... it required the moving of his altar from one place to another... in order that Abraham might acquaint himself with Gods ways. First he pitches his tent at Shechem; then on to Bethel; then a journey to the South; and then, because of the famine in the land a little excursion into Egypt. Some hard lessons were to be learned there; and though we cannot blame God for our own mistakes as we seek to follow Him, we do have this confidence that if the heart is right God will cause even these to tie in with His purposes. Returning from Egypt he finds himself back in Bethel again, where he had pitched his tent at the beginning. Then the time came for a separation from Lot, and a walking through the length and breadth of the land of his inheritance. He seemed to be wandering--and many have felt the same way as they look back upon their lives, and wonder why such apparent disorder in all that they did. But Abraham had to go that way. God was leading him; for God had promised He would show him a "land." Now he is at Hebron, certainly the choicest part of the land of Canaan. Why not settle down right here, Abraham, and enjoy the inheritance and the home that God had promised you? Are you going to be a visionary all your life, and at the end discover that you have really gone nowhere? And Hebron did become his home for awhile. Isaac and Jacob also lived there. And when it became time for Israel to enter into their inheritance some 500 years later, it became the inheritance of Caleb; for God had sworn to give it to him because of his faithfulness. Later on, David reigned as king over Judah in Hebron, And so it must have been a highly desirable prize for anyone to receive.
But Abraham continued to be a stranger and a foreigner in his own inheritance. Because Abraham was a man of the "Way." He could be thankful for it, enjoy it, get his daily sustenance from the fruitfulness of the land; but he must move on. Back to the Negeb. Then dwelling in the midst of the Philistines, and learning some more hard lessons. Finally the true son Isaac is born. Surely the time is at hand when he can settle down and be content with Gods promises, which he has faithfully fulfilled. But God would not let him settle down, because the experiences through which God was leading him were designed to enlarge his vision, so that he might come to know God and yearn for the Holy City. This would become his true inheritance. Once again he must become "unsettled." For God said to him, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell of" (Genesis 22:2). Still a little indefinite... which mountain? But he did not need to know the exact spot... not yet. He would know the second step only after he had taken the first. This is the principle by which the people of the Way must walk. And it is designed this way that the people of the Way might become the people of the Truth and of the Life. And there on Mount Moriah, having given back to God everything that God had given him, Abraham received the highest prize of all: a revelation of the Day of Christ and of the Lamb that Jehovah-Jireh had provided.
SETTING OUR GOALS
Being a finite people we would like to seek out for ourselves a way of life that is fulfilling, and which in the end will bring us into a sense of finality; because the finite mind cannot comprehend unceasing progression. We would like to come to that place where our goals have been achieved and we have arrived. But in the spiritual realm we must learn that goals once attained only open up before us new horizons to seek, new territory in God to explore, new ways of the Lord to understand, new heights to attain unto, and new depths in which to be lost. It is like climbing some rugged mountain peak only to discover when we have reached the top that there are new valleys of testing and humiliation into which we must descend, and new mountain peaks that we did not know existed. It is unsettling to us by Gods own design; for there is a certain restlessness that prevails in His own heart to have a people in whom He can dwell in all His fulness, and through whom He may exhibit the majesty and glory of His Being throughout all realms, the earthly and the physical as well as the heavenly and celestial. (See Ephesians 3:9,10). His plan, therefore, is to identify us with Himself; and to do this He will consistently, yet with great patience and mercy, frustrate all our attempts to achieve goals and to pursue purposes which may not only fall short of His own, but which in themselves are so often extremely selfish and self-centered.
The prevailing thought in the Church is: God is doing big things. So we must think big... talk big... preach big... get into the action... see great things accomplished for God. The only problem, of course, is that usually those who are planning to do big things do not understand that the greater the work that God will perform, the weaker... and the smaller... and the more humble will be the instruments that God will use. And while religious people were building synagogues throughout the land, and sending missionaries far and wide to make proselytes among the Gentiles, God was preparing a "Body" in which He would reveal Himself, and forever do away with temple sacrifice and offering. And this One would come on the scene, not with trumpet blast from the temple, but in an atmosphere prepared of the Lord and so designed that only the humble would be able to breathe the fresh air of Gods revelation. Humble shepherds would hear from heaven, and would come and worship the Messiah in a stable. He would be born into a humble peasant family of no particular esteem in the religious world. Simeon, a strange old man who walked with God, and who cherished Gods promise that he would live to see the Lords Christ--because he walked with God he came into the temple one day at Gods appointed time and saw the Christ that others about him saw but did not recognize--and then went out, content that his purpose in life was accomplished. (And we cannot help but hear the reports of his friends and neighbors as they conversed with one another, and lamented over the delusion of this old man who talked all his life about living to see the Messiah... and now hes gone.) Then there were Zacharias and Elisabeth --both "stricken in years." He was a faithful priest in the temple--but he would be retiring shortly, or pass off the scene in death. But God uses them to bring forth the prophet that would turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers--and prepare the ground for the revelation of the Messiah. And John spent his days in isolation in the wilderness, recognized by the people as a prophet of God, but held in very low esteem by the leaders of the religious system of that day. Nor did he go about organizing crusades to reach the masses, but they came to him... drawn by the magnetism of the prophetic word that was in his mouth... He gave them some very simple instructions which if they followed would prepare their hearts for the Christ that was about to be revealed.
O how God Most High must lament over His people today as He did over that first generation of redeemed Israelites, "THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN MY WAYS!" And how He longs for that people who will take everything that they have ever received from God, yes everything: their doctrines, their fellowships, their churches--large or small; their gifts and ministries; their plans and schemes for enlargement; their programs for world evangelism and world outreach; and lay them all like Isaac on the Altar of Burnt Offering, on one of the mountains that God would show them.
But God hasnt shown me any such mountain, I hear someone say. Nor will He do so, until you walk with God from altar to altar... until you fervently desire to do Gods will... until you learn His way and earnestly desire to walk in His way... until the will of God becomes to you your highest prize and your daily bread... and until you are prepared to recognize that as the heavens are high above the earth, so are Gods ways higher than your ways, and Gods thoughts higher than your thoughts. Perhaps we will not find too much conflict in our own hearts or with others, as we talk about "goals" and "unceasing progression"... as long as this means bigger and bigger... and more and more of Gods blessing and enlargement. But when God begins to reveal that the enlarging of our goals may well mean the forsaking and laying down of what we have already attained to, there could be cause for a little wonderment in our own hearts and in the eyes of those about us. And we will discover that in measure as we are walking with God, in like measure shall we become as strangers and foreigners in the eyes of those who see an end in gift and ministry and the blessing of God.
You mean God told me to start this big church and get involved in this extensive outreach, and now I am supposed to drop it all? You mean God called me into the ministry, and now asks me to lay it down and go to work in a factory or sawmill, or get involved in some monotonous routine job on an assembly line? God called me to higher things than that. You mean God called the apostle Paul to the high and holy calling of apostleship to the Gentiles, and then shut him up in prison to waste away his days in a prison cell?
And so the call of God to higher heights in Him is not heard because we have not identified with His Ways, and therefore we do not really appreciate the thoughts and the intents of His heart. We do not understand the prayer of Hannah, how God is the One who kills and makes alive; who brings down to the grave and brings up again. We do not understand that it is only in dying that we shall truly live; and it is only in going down to the grave that we shall know the power of His resurrection life. Nor shall we ever know this by taking a course in Theology. The actual knowing of it can only come in that life that has earnestly sought identification with the Lord who is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.
IDENTIFYING WITH HIS WAY
As we begin to identify with Gods Way, then it is that the Word of God and the Truth of God begin to take on reality to those who seek to know Him. True we identify with the Lord when we receive Him, and Christian "baptism" is a mark of that identification. But that is just the beginning. From then on and throughout life there must be a continual identifying with Him if we hope to attain to the highest prize of all, of "knowing Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings." And as little by little we learn to walk with Him, so does the Word of God become more and more meaningful to us. Once the story of Joseph was just that, a beautiful story. But now it means more, because in small measure at least we have been able to identify. He had a vision... and we have a vision. He would like to see it fulfilled, but he soon learned that only God Himself can fulfill the vision that He has given. He does not give us the vision as an incentive to work on, but as a seed of truth to embrace and allow it to fulfill Gods purpose in our lives. We find with the prophet that in eating of the Book, it is like honey in the mouth, but bitterness in the belly; and we wonder how a Word so sweet can become an experience so bitter. But as Joseph cherished the vision, the fulfillment of it became more and more distant and more and more impossible. Finally he discovers himself in a foreign land, completely cut off from the family that he saw in the vision--a prisoner and a slave rather than a king and a ruler. To try and figure out what might have gone wrong would only lead to further frustration, so he simply tries to forget it all. (Eventually when his first son is born he will call him, "God has caused me to forget.") He cannot deny what God showed him, but he will just lay it aside or put it in a bottle, seal it, and cast it upon the waters. And yet in and through it all God was consistently and without any intermission working out all the intricate details in Josephs life that would eventuate in the vision being gloriously fulfilled, only on a much higher and loftier plane than Joseph ever imagined as a young lad who dreamed the dream. Gone were the thoughts of greatness. Gone the thought that some day Im going to be somebody great, and all you boys are going to have to recognize it. Here was a man of the Way who in walking with God became a stranger in his own home, a byword among his own brothers, a dreamer whose dreams soon vanished when he was sold to the Ishmaelites and became a stranger in a foreign land. And so the vision of greatness was fulfilled in the perfection of Gods order; but it was only fulfilled as Joseph found grace to identify with Gods Way; and in so doing the dream itself was utterly transformed until it became a transforming experience in Josephs own heart; and a vision of mercy, of deliverance, and of compassion for those who had mistreated him. The man of the Way, whose feet were hurt in fetters of brass, and whose soul was laid in iron, was recognized for what he was: the elect of God, marked with the mark of God and destined to become Zaphnathpaaneah, a name which signified to Pharaoh and the Egyptians: "A Saviour, or Sustainer of Life."
AS THE RAIN AND AS THE SNOW
What we are saying is that Truth begins to take on form and harmony and true meaning within us as we begin to walk in His Way, and not merely as we study the Bible. And as His ways begin to unfold we soon recognize that "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 5 5:9). Then we understand that we can only appreciate His ways as we allow our minds to be "renewed." We are aware that God made the majestic "Cedar that is in Lebanon." But now we are amazed that God takes note even of "the hyssop that springeth out of the wall." No longer is it alarming that people, even Gods people, should resist the Truth. And no longer is there any purpose in arguing about it. Now we know that one must walk in Gods Way if he is going to understand and know the Truth.
Nevertheless, we must be faithful to minister the Truth. For it will serve its purpose. God goes on to explain that His Word is like the rain that comes down from heaven, It will water the earth and flow back into the rivers and oceans from which it came in the first place. It is not really lost. If there has been a good planting of the Lord the rain will fulfill its purpose. But it takes time... and Gods watchcare and faithfulness. And as the heart responds in faithfulness, with every going forth of the Word there is a certain work of grace wrought in the life. Truth becomes experience as we identify with it... I should say, with Him.
Then God says, "And as the snow from heaven..." Of course there is always evidence of life after a rain. But snow? Snow, and ice... these speak of hardness, coldness, and death. But as you begin to walk in His Way, you discover that there are "treasures" even in the snow. It, too, is to water the earth. God said so. But this can only happen at the right season... only in the hour of Spring! So that explains it! Here we were, wondering why we seemed to be so cold and lifeless, just cumbering the ground. Everything seems useless, futile, cold, barren. And yet I believe in Predestination. Sometimes I would like to forget it... but I know it is good doctrine: that God marked out my pathway before I was born, even from the foundation of the world. It seems to give you a feeling of importance and of greatness. But, like Joseph, the times come when you just have to lay it aside. I can hardly deny the doctrine... but at least I feel no urgency to argue about it anymore. I can hardly look at my life, very ordinary and futile as most of it seems to have been--and get excited about a doctrine that says God planned it all that way. But then I remember when I was a child, and my mother was doing needlework. She had two hoops that fitted together, one inside the other--and across the hoops was stretched a cloth, tightly drawn together by the hoops. The needlework looked real nice:, perhaps some pretty flowers, of different colors, all worked into the cloth according to a pattern that was stamped on the cloth ahead of time. Sometimes when she would lay it down I would take it and turn it over, and look at the underside. Then I would turn it back and forth and try to reconcile the beautiful flowers I saw on the top side, with the maze of colored thread underneath: loose ends, mixed-up threads, knots... anything but beautiful.
It must be something like that. There is a pattern. And because I believe God, I must believe that "all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did..." I cant quite see it that way now, because I am looking at the underside. The Master Workman is looking down from the top and I have to believe that He knows what He is doing. This gives me confidence and assurance in what I cannot see. But then He said it was supposed to be that way, to believe without seeing.
And so, "As the rain cometh down, AND AS THE SNOW..." Then I must wait. Wait for God. Wait for the right season. People have told me so often that God was waiting for me, and I have tried to accept that, because those who are teaching it seem to be more fruitful in His Kingdom than I am. But somehow I remain as the snow.
Now I can identify a little more with the Truth. There are "treasures in the snow." But these treasures can only be released in the hour of Spring. God does have a time and a season... and a day and an hour reserved for His people. But I cant choose that day and that hour. All I can do is to remain cold and lifeless until His time comes. Then it becomes "My hour." Sons of God must learn through experience that their time is not always ready, but it is being prepared. Can you identify?
Let us go a little further. The purpose of both the rain and the snow is to water the earth that it "may bring forth and bud." How precious it is in the hour of spring and early summer when this begins to happen. And how we anticipate the releasing of the blessing of God upon His people in that hour that they might truly become a fruitful field that the Lord hath blessed, that they in turn might become a blessing to others. Can we identify with Gods Way?
Well, we can see buds and leaves of hope and blessing in the midst of Gods people, and so we take courage. But let us go a little further. "That it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater..." Now thats what we want! We want to become the bread of life to those who are famishing about us, and water to the thirsty soul. Lord, make us to be that bread of life to the starving masses of humanity. And we have hope and confidence that God is preparing this kind of "bread." The Church of Christ is depicted as "one bread" as well as "one body." But let us never forget: in the formation of the Bread of God there is a process: and after the harvesting of the grain; after the grinding in the mills of Gods dealings; after the anointing with the fresh oil of His Spirit, and the mingling together of the fine flour with the fresh oil.., and after the baking of the bread in the ovens of Gods fiery trials... then and then only does the "dough" become "bread to the eater."
WHENCE SHALL WE BUY BREAD?
We would like to content ourselves with the thought that the Bible is the bread of life, and therefore we will do what we can to distribute Bibles. Or maybe our much activity in the Church might produce this bread. (And dont misunderstand me; we appreciate the printed Word, and every effort inspired by the Spirit of God to send forth that Word.) But let us just recognize plain facts. You want to be very practical, as you consider the needs of men? Then let us be practical. And let us just acknowledge that with every increase of our efforts to meet the needs of the people, so do those needs increase, And the "practical" in our midst, like Philip of old, have a very practical answer to the ever-present question that the Lord has posed: "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat" (John 6:5). Now let us as Gods people understand that because the Lord raises a matter of concern for His people, this is not Gods authority for you and I to devise ways and means to fulfill the thoughts of Gods heart. Jesus said this to "prove" Philip, not to authorize him to start a campaign for funds. Philip of course was very practical. Jesus is concerned about the hungry... so I will be concerned. Let us see: Two hundred dollars would perhaps help to solve the matter: everyone at least will have a little taste. Sound familiar? Perhaps if we could raise a thousand dollars, or twenty thousand dollars, we could get the job done.
But there are also a few Andrews around, and he has a little more faith... but still quite cautious. "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes..." But he doesnt want to go out too far on the limb, so he mentions that its really only a suggestion. The Lord knew all along what He would do, but very gently He was seeking to lead the disciples into His Way. Now having recognized their desire to help the people, and having received the suggestion from at least one in the group that there were a few loaves in their midst, little though it was, Jesus came forth with the answer. And it was very simple: Bring them to Me!
BRING THEM TO ME!
When, O when, Church of the living God, are we going to learn this lesson? That it is not in the raising of more money, and the enlarging of our churches, and the furtherance of our programs, that we are going to feed the multitudes. But it is in the five loaves and the two fishes surrendered entirely into the hands of the Master! That it is in the ministry with which God has enriched His people--not standing apart behind a pulpit, but broken and mingled together with the fish that have been taken in the net, that God shall meet the needs of humanity, That it is only as they are taken together in His hands, and become one in His hands, and broken in His hands, and mingled together in His hands, that they shall become that life-giving Bread that God has prepared for human need. Another billion dollars in the coffers of the Church will not accomplish what God wants accomplished in the earth. Selling your church edifices and building greater ones so that you can store more people will not do it, But a true Body (represented in the two fishes --"two" being the number of a corporate relationship); and a true ministry (represented in the five loaves); yet not two distinct entities as they exist today in the Church, but ONE in His hands, broken and mingled together, is Gods total answer to human need.
Can we identify? Or at least, do we wish to identify? Do we have the courage to say with Philip, How are we going to meet the needs of humanity with so little? And further courage to say with Andrew, We have so little to offer? Or are we going to continue to canvas the believers for more and more and more only to end up with two hundred pennyworth and still barely enough to give a very small handful a very small taste?
JUST A BARLEY LOAF!
If Gods people could only recognize that God can only multiply the very little we have when placed unreservedly in His hands! And that it is in the "breaking" of the loaf that the Word of God is multiplied, not in the printing of more Bibles! That it was just a "barley loaf" that tumbled down the slopes and smote the armies of Midian that were in number as "the sand that is upon the seashore for multitude." Just a barley loaf! But in the hands of Gideon it became the Sword of the Lord and of Gideon! There are not to be two swords: one out of the mouth of the Lord, and the other out of the mouths of His apostles and prophets and teachers. There is one sword, and it is His. Our quotation of Scripture and our knowledge of the Bible and our understanding of Truth is not the Sword of the Lord. The Sword of the Lord is that Word which proceedeth only out of His mouth... and out of ours as we lend it to Him. It was not in mobilizing the armies of Israel that the enslaved nation would find victory, but it would be in "demobilizing." First, twenty-two thousand had to be demobilized and sent home. The rest were brave and anxious for battle... but they did not know Gods ways; and Gideon was admonished to demobilize still further. Another nine thousand seven hundred had to lay down their armor and uniform and go home. God would accomplish this victory by His own Sword--and the Sword would be in the hands of Gideon and three hundred men--likened in their insignificance and weakness to a mere "barley loaf." Can we identify? Or at least, do we wish to identify? Or will we continue on into the darkness of the night to feverishly mobilize the forces of the Church to wage a losing battle against the enemies of God with the very "practical" but very futile resources of our own human endeavour?
"SEED FOR THE SOWER"
"That it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater " saith the Lord. What about the seed for sowing? Now "bread-corn is bruised," the Bible says. Otherwise there can be no bread for the hungry. Now the seed for sowing is not crushed, because it must be planted. There is life in the seed which only the crushing, and the milling, and the mingling with the oil, and the baking in the oven... can make into the true Bread of Life for the hungry. But there is also a germ of life in the seed which God would plant in the earth for the purposes of reproduction. He alone can choose which it shall be. But in either case there is suffering. None of us are to be exempted from that, if we are to reign with Him. But the measure and the nature of the suffering differs according to Gods specific purpose for the seed. Many of Gods people have not known the crushing and the bruising that others have known; and we may wonder at Gods ways. But doing Gods will is what counts in His eyes. And there are many who have suffered in their fruitlessness and barrenness, feeling within themselves that they are accomplishing little or nothing of eternal value in the earth. They look about and see others bringing forth fruit. Yet they too sincerely desire to do Gods will. Many of these, unknown to themselves, have planted seeds of Truth in the lives of others that have borne much fruit for the Kingdom of God.
"Unknown to themselves," we say; because God planned it this way for their own refinement of character, and for His own glory, And the reason they have not partaken of the joy of this fruit is because God ordained that they would become identified with the seed that they have sown. Let us remember this, for it is an important principle in God. We must become identified with the Truth that we teach... with the ministry that we hold forth unto others... with the seed that we bear. Our present joy, then, is not as the world giveth... not a manufactured joy that soon withers on the vine; but "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). It is a joy in the midst of weeping, in anticipation of the true joy that is to be revealed:
"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He that goeth forth and weepeth,
Bearing precious seed,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him." (Psalm 126:5,6)
Or, as the song-writer says:
The tears of the sower
And the song of the reaper, Shall mingle together, in joy bye and bye"
They not only sowed the good seed of the Word of God, but they became identified with the seed that they had sown. All they were aware of was the isolation, the darkness, the loneliness. Is it not true that the reaper stands out in the eyes of the Church as the only ministry that really matters? And yet apart from the sower there could not have come forth in others the fruit that God so desired. Why would God not allow them to partake of the blessing of that fruit themselves? Because the seed they are sowing is "precious"... and so are they "precious" in His sight, and He will not allow them to receive glory from men. He has reserved them for the Day of His own glory. John the Baptist must decrease, that Christ might increase. Moses must die and be buried in a vale in the land of Moab, while the people of God (who were much more rebellious and disobedient than he) would march into the land and possess it. Stephen is stoned to death, and Saul who helped stone him becomes the fruit of Stephens martyrdom, and preaches the Gospel far and wide. Stephen is simply taken away by the believers and buried. Paul, who once ministered in great fruitfulness and blessing is taken off to prison, while others with a lesser ministry have freedom to move about ministering the Gospel. But Paul had made a great discovery: that as death worked in him, so would life work in others.
Let believers everywhere count the cost. And let Gods ministers count the cost. If we are prepared to be what God wants us to be, and to plant the good seed of the Word of God in the hearts of men, then by His grace let us prepare our hearts for the day and hour when God would send us into isolation and death... Not necessarily a physical death, but a spiritual one. A death that will bring isolation from brethren, discouragement, ostracism, and a sense of futility to yourself... but fruitfulness and blessing unto others.
Can you identify? Or do you wish to identify with the ways of the Lord? Or do you wish to save your life, hoping thereby to find it? Hoping to find true blessing, true fulfillment, true satisfaction in what you are doing rather than in going Gods way?
GIVE ATTENDANCE TO READING
In identifying with the Truth we mentioned that it was a case of pursuing Gods will, and seeking to walk in His ways. You do not really know the Truth until it becomes a part of your being. Honor the Word, the written Word. Read it much. But know of a certainty that it is not really yours until it comes alive within you. I have read the Bible through many times, just as a matter of "reading" it... typed it out once along with footnotes and references for my own study Bible... memorized large portions of it in my earlier days... I honor the Word of God, as much as anyone. And yet many times as I read it I am keenly aware that at the time it seems to fall far short of meeting my basic earnest desire to know God. However, it has been a source of great encouragement to know that simply in reading the Word with an open heart one is exposing himself to the power and to the authority of that Word, unaware as you may be of this at the time. Paul said, "Give attendance to reading..." But we would excuse ourselves on the basis that we do not understand it too well, or it becomes tiring and monotonous, and we do not get any particular blessing from it. We hope rather for the miracle that would make the printed page to shout at us with clarion call. I have personally never had that experience. And perhaps it is good that it has been this way so that I can encourage others. Many times we find ourselves reading some very beautiful Scriptures that carry with them a living Word; but its true benefit may not come to us until weeks, or months, or years later.
We have been speaking of Gods ways... the greatness of His ways... and how foreign Gods ways are to the ways of men. We sincerely trust that what we have said will not merely be received as good teaching and good doctrine; but that it will encourage everyone who reads this writing to "search and try their ways" as the Bible admonishes, For we are persuaded that if there is a genuine "search" in this area, God will be faithful to shew His people His way in this great hour, in this hour of impending crisis. Mans day quickly draws to a close. God is looking for and preparing a people, who will come to know His thoughts and become acquainted with His ways. For of this present generation of the Church. even of the evangelical and charismatic Church, it can rightly be said (as was said of the Israelites of old) "THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN MY WAYS."
HE SPAKE OF THE CEDAR... AND THE HYSSOP
God takes special note of the "hyssop" because He is so Great. He tells us that He "dwells in the high and holy place," and then He is quick to remind us, "I dwell also with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit," (Isaiah 57:15). The "house" that Solomon built Him was really just intended to be a "house of prayer for all nations." It was never intended to be a dwelling place for God; nor did Solomon recognize it as such. Therefore when the purpose for which it was built became obscured and out of sight, God was faithful to remind them of His true habitation: not a stately palace built of the Cedars of Lebanon, and adorned with gold and silver and precious stone: but a home as insignificant and weak as man himself... but this man must be poor in spirit, and broken and contrite in heart:
"Where is the place that ye build unto me?
And where is the place of my rest?
For all those things hath mine hand made,
And all those things have been, saith the Lord:
But to this man will I look,
Even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And trembleth at my Word." (Isaiah 66:1,2)
INCARNATION--THE HUMILIATION OF GOD
Jesus comes on the scene, and immediately we are made to realize that here is One that is Great because of His humility. Here is One who can take note of the things that are meaningless to others; for He (like the hyssop) was but a "Root of a dry ground." Here was One who "had no form nor comeliness"... One who could not get enthralled about the mighty and the noble; or share the enthusiasm of the disciples about the splendour of the Temple; but who saw beauty in the "lily of the field"... One who would not break the "bruised reed," or quench the "smoking flax."
True greatness does not stand apart, above and beyond the ordinary. True greatness is always identified with humility and weakness and insignificance and lowliness. That is why the great and mighty God of the universe who created all things could not for ever remain high and lifted up in the heavens... with a reputation of being mighty and powerful, but unconcerned about the needs of the people whom He created. He must come down and show Himself as He really is: for God the Father, living in His own Son in all His fulness, truly revealed Himself as He really is: meek, and lowly, and compassionate. A God who is concerned when the sparrow falls to the ground, mortally wounded by the archer. God takes note of it because He is so great. Jesus said that two of them were sold for a far-thing, and five of them for two farthings, And so one was just thrown in for good measure... just forgotten. But not even this forgotten sparrow was forgotten by God. God has been greatly maligned by the peoples of the earth who worship careless, cruel, indifferent, and dictatorial gods who have brought them nothing but bondage and oppression. And so in answer to the prayer of the prophet, God rent the heavens and came down, and showed men what He was really like. I do not mean to start a theological argument, for I feel I have gone beyond that; but it bothers me that so many Christians should think of God the Father as One Person... and God the Son another. The mystery of the three-in-one I do not profess to comprehend (any more than I can comprehend that I am three-in-one, and made in His image). But God wants us to know that when His Son walked this earth, God the Father was in that Man, walking in His sandals. And when Jesus mingled amongst men as the sinless and spotless One, showing mercy and compassion to the multitudes, it was God the Father living in His Son and walking in His Son and showing mercy through His Son. And when He spoke words of Truth, it was God the Father revealing His own heart, and showing forth His own love and mercy towards men. And when He hung on the Cross... it was not a case of God the Father being indifferent to the cries of His Son as He suffered this unspeakable anguish... but in the truest sense of the word, God the Father was Himself suffering the pain of every nail that went into His hand, and every thorn that pierced His brow. And when a soldier took his sword and thrust it into the side of Jesus... Jesus felt it as a man, and God the Father who dwelt within Him felt it as the Creator of the soldier that pierced Him. Yes, it was God the Father who willingly subjected Himself to the full measure of weakness, and poverty, and humiliation and suffering-in order to remove the "curse" which He Himself had laid upon man because of his transgression!
HYSSOP--and the PASSOVER
"And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin..." (Exodus 12:22).
We are all familiar with the story of the Passover, and particularly with the phrase: "When I see the Blood, I will pass over you." And honoring the Blood of the Lamb that was slain has been throughout the generations of the Church the key to our Redemption.
But how was the blood to be applied? "Ye shall take a bunch of hyssop " A temple would be built of Cedar in the centuries that lay ahead: cedar that was cut from the lofty mountains of Lebanon, shaped and fitted together for boards and timbers and beams, But the humble little hyssop that could make boast of greatness or of strength would become, in the purposes of God, the instrument in the hands of the elders of Israel for the applying of the blood of the passover lamb.
Why the hyssop? Because it was so insignificant and ordinary... and easily within the reach of all. God would have us to know that no man is excluded from His grace because of what he lacks in himself. Nor is he excused because of what he lacks by nature; or because of environment, upbringing, background, social stature, weakness, poverty, or ignorance. We might accuse ourselves because of these things, or excuse ourselves for our lack of them. But God would have us to know that... if there be in the standards of men such distinctions that would make some to be superior to others, then if he would know the covering of the Blood he must apply the Blood by the same token as his lowly brother. He must use the "hyssop." It is just a lowly shrub. It is a bitter herb, and is known to have certain medicinal properties. It has purplish flowers--beautiful in its own right low growing, and fragrant... if one would stoop low enough to appreciate it. But the use of the hyssop was not optional. There could be no distinction here; nor could there be any standard that would cause certain exclusions. It had to be hyssop because we must know that in the sight of God there is no act of the will, no refinement of character, no manner of good works or appearances before God that would ensure the covering of the Blood on our behalf. The hyssop would speak of that humiliation and abasement of the human will before God--a bitter medicine as far as the sickly human heart is concerned--but fragrant and beautiful in the sight of God as He stoops low to heal the broken and the contrite heart.
The Church has always made much of Redemption by the Blood of Christ, and rightly so. Where we have failed is in the emphasis of the fulness of the meaning of Redemption. The word "redemption" in the New Testament carries with it a three-fold connotation. Its simple meaning is: we were "bought with a price." The Greek word is "agorazo"... "purchased at the market-place." A second word like it is prefaced with the preposition "ex" (exagorazo) and means "purchased out of and away from the market-place." Here is the picture. A slave is on the auction block at the market-place. Another man, out of mercy, lays down the redemptive money. He has bought the slave for himself by paying the price. He could, if he so desired, put the man up for auction again, and sell him to the highest bidder. But he takes him "away from" the marketplace. because now he is no longer to be offered for sale. He purchased the slave for himself, and he will not be resold. He is taken "away from" the place of sale. But there is still another word for redemption, and it is "lutroo," and it means, "to set free by paying a price." Again here is the picture. The slave is bought with a price... he is taken away from the market-place... and then the man who purchased him turns to his slave and says, "Now you are mine; I have bought you for myself; but I really bought you that I might set you free. I take away the chains from your hands and your feet, and I set you free."
The man was redeemed with a price, taken from the auction mart, and then released. (There is one further step that the liberated man can take... and should take. And unless he takes this step he will remain in a certain kind of bondage all his days, a bondage to "self." And this step is outlined in Exodus 2 1:2-6... the liberated slave chooses to become the lifelong slave of the man who bought him. He submits himself to his master that just set him free, allows his "ear" to be bored through with an awl. and he becomes his masters slave forever.) O that we might learn with that liberated slave in Israel, that the only true freedom we shall ever enjoy is that freedom which comes to us when we become forever the captive and obedient servants of the One who purchased us and then set us FREE. O that we might have out ears pierced to hear only what He says, and to have one purpose only in life to pursue: "Lo I come to do Thy will. O God."
There is much made in evangelical Christianity today about the once-for-all aspects of our redemption. And certainly His offering was a once-for-all sacrifice. But once-for-all does nor mean something that happened in the past and therefore remains a thing of the past. Gods once-for-alls have eternal significance. Gods once-for-alls are eternally present. Jesus suffered once-for-all, but 60 or more years later John on Patmos saw the "Lamb, as it had been slain." It was not a mere fact of history. lt. was an act of eternal consequence. Today His blood is just as real and factual as the day lie hung on the Cross while the blood flowed down from His head, His side, His hands, and His feet. The blood was not lost in the stony grounds of Calvarys hill, but in God it actually entered in behind the veil in that eternal realm. We do not imply anything mystical here, as if the blood was literally soaked up from the ground and preserved in any natural sort of way. He shed His blood, and it soaked the ground under His feet... but in God it is an eternal thing, and remains (as it shall throughout eternity) the covering of those who would seek a hiding place from the wrath and justice of a holy God.
And just as the Blood abides, so it remains for you and I to apply that Blood to the heart with the hyssop of repentance, of humility, of brokenness, and of a contrite heart. This is readily available to all of us: it is right there at our feet, if we would but stoop low and lay hold upon it. Jesus tells the story of two men who went up to the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican, But the Pharisee prayed thus "with himself..." His prayers never got off the ground, because of the Pharisees proud heart: "I thank thee Lord that I am not as other men..." and then he went on to tell the Lord all about the evil that men commit, as if to divert God s attention away from his own heart, But the publican didnt even have the courage to look God in the face, but with bowed heart and face he smote upon his breast and cried, "God be merciful to me the sinner " "I tell you," said Jesus, "that this man went down to his house JUSTIFIED rather than the other. For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:14).
The blood of Christ avails for sinner and believer alike. And how many Christians there are who have known the covering of the blood, and have been redeemed, but have not known the fulness of redemption because of wrong attitudes, wrong motives, and wrong thoughts about God or about certain of Gods people. Sometimes the simplest act of obedience unto the will of God can be the hyssop in our hands that will bring into our lives the full benefits of His redemption, and the releasing of our spirits into the freedom of His love and grace. Hyssop is a bitter herb, but it has medicinal qualities. And as we stoop low at His feet, like the publican in the temple, or the sinful woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears... God Himself stoops low and smells a sweet fragrance; and the erring one, bowed down with guilt and fear, arises to walk in newness of life, and to send forth the fragrance of redemptive grace unto others. That is why David prayed:
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
THE LAW OF THE LEPER
"This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest: And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper; Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop: And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water (Or, in a clay vessel that contains fresh spring water). As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that killed over the running water: And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy..." (Leviticus 14:2-7). The Blood is mingled with the Living Water!
How determined we are sometimes to get the cleansing of the blood without the use of the hyssop. We would do anything in the flesh to rid ourselves of the weight and burden of sin, other than simply humbling ourselves in the sight of God. "Now Namaan, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper" (2 Kings 5:1). And this last phrase "But he was a leper" almost seems to make everything that was said before sound meaningless. His greatness. his honor, his might... what did it really matter if this dreadful disease was eating away his flesh? But a little captive Israelitish girl who served Namaans wife, out of pity for her. master, mentioned that there was a cure. "Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria, for he would recover him of his leprosy." The word got to the king, and he sent Namaan down to Israel with silver and gold and raiment in abundance, in order to secure healing for his afflicted general. Naturally he would seek out the king of Israel, because a prophet of this caliber would certainly be living in or near the royal palace. But the king was angry. "Who am I?" he said. "Does the king of Syria think Im God that can cleanse a man of his leprosy? The man is just trying to start a fight." Elisha heard about it, and sent word for the captain to come to him and he would know that there was a prophet in Israel, And so down he came to the prophet with silver and gold and changes of raiment, sent a messenger to the door of the prophet, and looked for the man of God to come forth, perhaps with some kind of a magic rod in his hand, and with much fanfare he would utter imprecations against this vile disease, and set him free. But Elisha just stayed in his room and sent out a messenger with the word, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thou shalt be clean..." What humiliation, and what a letdown for such a great and noble man! They had better rivers back home... cleaner and fresher. "You tell me to wash and be clean by dipping in the muddy waters of the Jordan?" And so he turned away in a rage.
What Namaan did not understand, and what you and I fail to understand so often, is that Gods appointment for our lives, and for our deliverance and blessing, is not to be measured in terms of what I can give God in return; nor is it, generally speaking, in getting outside help from some great ministry out there that has a reputation for working miracles; generally the problem is right within ourselves, And the truly great ministry, rather than drawing attention to the power he has, will simply give that person in distress the Word of the Lord which if followed will direct that individual who is seeking help, into a simple walk of obedience with the Lord that will do for him what nothing else can do. It is a simple case of that individual taking a bunch of hyssop and applying for himself the remedy that God has put within the grasp of anyone who would become low enough in His presence, and humble enough before men, to draw from the heart of God that outflow of His grace that He has reserved for the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Some would travel the length and breadth of this land, or go to foreign lands, seeking for deliverance; and yet all the while the hyssop of humility and repentance is growing right at their feet. If it takes money, and time, and travel for an individual to make such a discovery... well and good. But in Namaans case, and very often in our case... the answer is not in the prophet, but in the Word of the Lord that a faithful prophet might bring forth--and Elisha knowing this was careful to stay out of the limelight, and leave the Word with a man in great need--so that Namaan could fume over it... ponder it... and finally submit.
How many believers there are who have laboured for months and years under condemnation and unrest in spirit and soul because they have steadfastly refused to bow low and gather a bunch of hyssop, and in all humility go to one whom he thinks has wronged him, and whom he blames for his trouble, and confess that he has been expressing a wrong attitude and showing the wrong spirit. God wants us to know that there is NOTHING from without that can harm us if we are right WITHIN. And further, He would have us know that EVERYTHING that comes against us from WITHOUT can actually bring forth GOOD in our lives if we receive it as from Him, and not as from that evil brother, or even as from the Devil. An evil brother may have been involved... and the Devil may have been involved... but a man of true faith and confidence (like Job) will say, "God has done it..." And Job was right, as God later testified. Perhaps one of the most quoted scriptures in the Bible (and we might add, the one less acknowledged as Truth) is Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Sure evil men are involved; certainly, Satan is there steadily at work to hinder and frustrate; and this doctrine does not excuse the evil of men, nor does it encourage us to have more toleration or the Devil. It simply acknowledges that God in His great wisdom is able to take all the opposing forces that would seek to hinder us in our walk with God and literally turn these weapons against the Enemy himself, so that Satan brings about his own defeat.
Throughout the history of the Church God has kept alive, at least among some of His people, that great longing and yearning for heart purity and holiness. At times He has brought forth great visitations in this area, where men sought God with an intensity of spirit that they might know Him in His love and in the beauty of holiness. Soon these movements fade away... and the doctrine remains, encumbered with all manner of legalism and works in an attempt to perpetuate what God once did by His Spirit. Then there are those who in listening to the Word concerning His grace and mercy come out of this kind of legalism, and come to the understanding that holiness itself is the gift of God, and not something one can attain to by good works. This is good. But in so many, many cases the doctrine of separation and holiness and the purifying of the heart is simply laid aside as something not really to be attained to in full measure in this life; so we will just rejoice in His grace and leave holiness and heart-purity and perfection for the next life.
But God will have a "glorious Church..." not in the "hereafter" but "here." In order to excuse themselves, some preachers of holiness are careful to differentiate between sins--making some to be "sin" as such, and others "mistakes." This way we can still claim to be without sin; and wherein we fall short, well it was just a "mistake" not really a sin. I think there is no greater deception than in the one who deceives himself. Why not, if our hearts are sincerely longing for reality and heart-purity, leave the doctrine in its high and holy realm where God dwells, and seek Him until He brings us into that realm, rather than seeking to pollute it a little so we can feel secure in the knowledge that we have what the Bible teaches? Why not seek God to bring us into those higher realms with Himself, rather than seeking to bring that high and holy place down to our level of experience? It is strange but true that men would rather hold to their doctrine, and excuse themselves for their lack of attainment... than to lay their doctrines aside and find true rest and joy in believing that God has reserved for His people yet many things and many experiences and many areas for conquest that as yet they have not known or understood.
God will have a "glorious Church": and it will be without "spot," without "wrinkle," without "blemish" without "any such thing." And it will be by "the washing of water by the Word." The humble have embraced the Word, as they always do, and are glad. For the humble are quite aware that in spite of the sprinkling of the Blood of the Passover Lamb, and in spite of our deliverance from the place and source of our former bondage, we still carry with us, like Israel of old, "the reproach of Egypt." Gods people still are captive in many areas of the world, the flesh, and the devil--and have become so accustomed to it that many do not recognize their bondage. This "reproach" must yet be rolled away at our Gilgal by a new circumcision, a circumcision of the Spirit, before we can truly possess the inheritance. We have not only been purchased, and removed from the place of sale, but liberated and released to serve and worship God in Spirit and in Truth--in "the beauty of holiness," We find it difficult to take the hyssop of humility and repentance because by nature there is within everyone of us the "man" of sin who would seek to keep the throne room of the "temple" of our heart unto himself, and deny the Lord of Glory His full Lordship in our lives. If there is concern in this area by some troubled heart, generally there is someone at hand to ease the burden with the doctrine that the Blood of Christ covers it all, so just forget your worries and rejoice in His grace. The Blood of Christ does cover all. Let us make no mistake about that. What we are talking about is how to have that Blood applied.
For the cleansing of the leper God commanded that two birds were to be taken "alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop..." All these things are beautiful in their significance and we will merely touch on them. The birds, the Lord from heaven. "Two"--Christ in death, and Christ in Resurrection. But "Two" is the number of "corporateness": for Christ is joined as one unto His people. (Notice in the human body the "twos": eyes, ears, arms, hands, legs, lungs, etc.) Cedar, strong and stately in His humanity. Scarlet, the color of His sacrifice. The one bird slain in a clay vessel over running water... or literally, "living water." It seems there was to be clear, fresh water in the clay vessel; so that the blood dripping down would be mingled together with the pure water. The Water and the Blood agree in one... "and the Spirit beareth witness, because the Spirit is Truth" (1 John 5:6).
There is much about the cleansing of the Blood that the Church has lost sight of in these past few generations. Too often in our day the doctrines of the Blood have been relegated to areas described as "judicial," with very little emphasis upon the practical and experiential, And so we are made to understand, and rightly so... that God sees us as "clean" because of the Blood. He reckons that we are "clean" if we believe, (even though in actual practice we know we are not clean). It is true that God sees us as "clean" because of His Blood, because He knows that the application of that Blood will make us as clean as He sees us. There is no thought in the heart of God that... Well, I know you are sinful and defiled by nature, and you always will be; but Jesus my Son is clean, and therefore I look upon you as clean because of Him. The Bible says that if there is true fellowship there is cleansing; and that the cleansing is from "all sin." And that the measure of purity is "as He is pure."
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (But we must not stop there, as so many do.) Let us read on: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins..." Nor can we stop there. "And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7-9). "And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:3).
Of course there are many, many other Scriptures that relate to this vital, experiential cleansing; and We believe God will emphasize the truth more and more in this hour of the cleansing of the Bride of Christ. And I am thankful for this glorious Truth, and for the measure of release and liberty that becomes ours when we lay down our doctrines out of hunger for reality. Let us continue to nurture that hunger and thirst after righteousness. For when we do we are going to discover a whole new area of delight in His Word; and henceforth rather than seeking to justify our lives by watering down the Word till it meets my standard, we ask the Lord to enable us to apply the hyssop of meekness and humility to "change" us and to "lift" us up into His own standard, even unto the heights of His grace and glory wherein the Lord would have us to dwell.
Two birds... the one slain, and the other dipped in the blood that was shed over running water; and then released into the open field. Free as a bird! But only free because of the blood, and the running water! "Not by water only, but water and blood," (1 John 5:6). Free as a bird! But only free because another bird had to die. Free as Christ! But only free in Christ who is alive, because we were identified with Christ who had to die. One with Him in resurrection life, only because we are one with Him in crucifixion, And the liberty of the Spirit that we know is only possible because we have been dipped in the Blood by an operation of the Spirit.
In the stream of the Spirit of God there flows all the efficacy of the Blood of Christ. That Blood is alive and efficacious today, just as much alive as it was on the Day that the fountain for sin and uncleanness sprang forth out of Calvarys mountain. We cannot partake of the Spirit without partaking of the Blood for they are co-mingled. The fountain of the living water of His Spirit has mingled together with the fountain of Blood that flowed from the veins of the Lord of the heavens as He hung on Calvarys Cross. The old hymn says,
There is a fountain filled with Blood,
Drawn from Immanuels veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
Dear dying Lamb, thy precious Blood,
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved to sin no more,
We do despite to the Spirit of Christ to testify that we are filled with the Spirit and then testify that we do not believe or expect that God will cleanse us from all sin. We do not release our spirits to the full efficacy of the Blood, if we do not join with Gods Spirit in "bearing witness" to the "Blood" and to "the Water." Thats what the Blood was shed for, to cleanse from all sin, And that is why the Blood is mingled with the Fountain of His Spirit, so that in partaking of His Spirit we might likewise partake of the cleansing and healing of the Blood. And thats why He is called the Holy Spirit... because He would come to abide in the temple which we are to make us holy. (Please do not he so foolish as to persuade men not to seek the Baptism of the Holy Spirit until they are wholly sanctified. Only the Spirit of God coming in to abide can make you to be that holy vessel that God wants you to be.)
Now we are talking about "hyssop" which is one of the ingredients of this Fountain of Life. Only the humble will see thereof, and be glad. Only the humble will partake of it, because only the humble can get low enough to discover Gods dwelling place (and dont forget, you will never enter into this kind of life until you discover Gods dwelling place, and then abide there with Him).
"Then Jesus turned, and saw them following..." (When you sincerely begin to follow Jesus, Great and Mighty as He is, He will turn around and take notice...)
"Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest thou?"
O how we would long to find His dwelling place that we might draw near unto Him... even if it be but for a moment or two! Just to know where He dwells, that in times of stress and uncertainty and perplexity we could find the answers to the problems that beset us. "Master, where dwellest Thou?" "He saith unto them, Come and see.
COME AND SEE! It would be so much easier if we had a road map and a clearly printed address. Not to say that many such maps have not been printed. There are many of them around. If you really want to find God, you must go to such and such a place. God is really working there. Or God sent a great revival to such and such a place 50 years ago, or 80 years ago--maybe if you go there you might find Him. Job in his great perplexity tried desperately to find God... searching on the left hand and on the right... going where God was WORKING, but not finding Him there. (See Job 23:9,10.) Thats the discouraging part of it. You know God is working THERE... and so you go THERE and still you do not really discover God. Where then did he find God? He found Him when he discovered Gods WAY. He found Him in his own trial and sufferings. He found Him there with him on the ash pile... but he did not know it at the time.
WHERE DWELLEST THOU? COME AND SEE!
"For thus saith the high and lofty One
That inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Or, "the bruised ones")" Isaiah 57:15.
Shall we not go there and dwell with Him there, not just one day like the two disciples of old... but all our days? He gives the invitation: "COME AND SEE!" This is the only road map He has for you. Others can tell you about Him. Others may give you all the answers. But until you "come" and walk with Him in the Way, and See for yourself--you will never really discover where God dwells.
THE ASHES OF A HEIFER
"And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin" (Numbers 19:9). "And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it..." (Numbers 19:18).
How little have we appreciated the "ingredients" of Gods grace that flow unto us who are partakers of His Spirit. All the ingredients of the Cross are mingled together in the Spirit of Truth who has come to abide within His people... just as the ashes of the red heifer, and the ashes of hyssop and scarlet and cedar wood were mingled together in the water of separation.
Now, "If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
Paul asks a question that requires no answer but the question itself. How much more shall the Blood of Christ? This goes far beyond the matter of forgiveness. We know we are forgiven, and we know that God justifies and looks down upon us as a redeemed people... as a people who are righteous because of the righteousness of Christ. But how can we comprehend this, that we can look upon ourselves as God looks upon us, our very conscience having been purged from all defilement? There are areas of cleansing by the "Water of separation" that as yet we know very little about. I believe we have greatly minimized and limited the cleansing work of the Spirit of God in our lives. God has a cleansing for the mind that is so total and so complete that the very conscience is purged from dead works to serve the living God, and there will remain "no more a conscience of sins." And if the Blood of Christ avails not for this, was there any need for Christ to die? Could we not have continued with the offerings of bulls and goats? And would not the "water of separation" and the "ashes of a heifer" absorbed in that water take the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
The potential and the implications of the Blood of Christ, and the nature and character of the living stream of God that has absorbed the efficacy of that Blood for the cleansing of His people, goes far beyond anything that we have ever imagined or thought possible. For there can be nothing more clean and pure anywhere in Gods universe than the defiled sons of Adam who have been cleansed and purified by the cleansing of the Blood and the washing of His Holy Spirit.
The apostle is careful to say that it was "through the eternal Spirit" that Jesus offered Himself without blemish unto God. As the precious Blood of Christ was flowing down from His sacred body, the Spirit of God was there- absorbing every drop of it in His own Being. The time would come when Jesus was glorified that this Holy Spirit, impregnated with the Blood of Christ, would be shed forth upon Gods people, as a pure stream of purifying, cleansing water of life, purging the very conscience of the sin-burdened and troubled soul.
The conscience is that inward "knowing with ones self"... that inward awareness of SELF. Now God looks down (through the Blood of the Cross) and sees perfect redemption and healing. So perfect... that He declares: "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Now, through the application of the Blood and the operation of His Spirit in our lives God would have us to see ourselves as He sees us... clean, and pure, and holy--with the past under the Blood and forgotten.
I could never understand how God could "forget" when it was easy for me to "remember." It must be just a manner of speech. Surely God couldnt possibly FORGET! Then I think I heard the Lord say, "You cannot forget because you are human; but I can forget because I am God."
God no longer has any problem with our many sins of the past, because the Blood of Christ has obliterated them from His mind! We know that, But the "conscience" continues to retain these thoughts because the "mind" has not been fully renewed, and the carnal mind which is ever at enmity against God, refuses to loose its hold upon us. But in the New Creation the former things are done away, neither shall they come into mind.
We have New Creation life now, But it is still in embryonic form. O that the Body of Christ might pursue the vision of total union with Christ... for it is only in that total union with Him that we shall know and experience the "fulness of the Spirit" in our lives, and the fulness of the efficacy of the Blood of Christ that comes to us as we partake of that Spirit.
PURGE ME WITH HYSSOP
"Have mercy upon me, O God, According to thy loving-kindness:
According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin."
David was a man after Gods own heart. Not because he was sinless... but because his heart was set on God, and he was desirous of going Gods way. When David was confronted with his sin by the word of the prophet--he was caught unawares by the parable that Nathan had told him. A certain rich man with many flocks and herds, when he wanted to make a feast went and stole the one little lamb that a poor man owned, and slew it. David was angry. Nathan turned to him and said, "Thou art the man!" David replied, "I have sinned against the Lord." Quick came Gods reply: "The Lord hath also put away thy sin."
This seems to be about the extent of modern day Gospel preaching and it is good as far as it goes. God puts away the sin of the repentant one, and God looks upon such a one as totally righteous because of the Blood of Christ.
But the man after Gods heart will begin to search his heart, and cry unto God for "cleansing." Whats wrong? Theres something within thats not right! Here I am... having known God all these years... and suddenly a temptation comes and I fall. I need cleansing! "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." The man after Gods own heart is concerned that his mind be renewed and his heart changed until he is able to think as God thinks, and feel as God feels.
"For I acknowledge my transgressions:
And my sin is ever before me."
But David did you forget? Do you not remember that Nathan said, "The Lord hath also put away thy sin?" Yes, he knew God had done that; but it was still there in his conscience. Forgiveness without cleansing still leaves the conscience defiled, and God has made ample provision for the cleansing of the conscience just as He has for the taking away of the sin itself. There were five particular offerings that God ordained for Israel in the Old Testament, all speaking of the work of the Cross, but each of some particular aspect of that work. (See Leviticus, Chapters 1 to 5.) All the offerings speak of Christ, and all speak of Christ in union with His people; but as we know, Gods truth is manifold in its beauty, and therefore many types and symbols are required to adequately portray the whole Truth. And even then they are but types and shadows of the real. And so the Burnt Offering would speak of Christ in total obedience unto the Fathers will, which eventuates in the sufferings of the Cross, and which ascend unto God as a sweet-smelling savor. Jesus delighted to do the Fathers will; and Gods total delight was in Him. Then there was the Meal Offering, Christ the Bread of God. And now in union with His people, we are One Bread, and One Body: milled exceeding fine in the mills of God, anointed and mingled with the fresh oil of His Spirit, baked in the ovens of testing and trial, and only then coming forth as the living bread. The Peace Offering is Christ again--but He who not only proclaimed Peace, and who made Peace, but who actually BECAME our Peace. When God broke down the walls of partition that once separated the nations from the covenants of promise, He there and then became the Peace of God to all who would receive Him. The nations continue in their enmity against God and against one another, because they have refused the Peace that God made. But intermingled among the nations are the true people of God who have received of that PEACE. They belong to another Kingdom, that is not of this world. They are men of PEACE. Therefore they use no sword in defence of their Master, but the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Finally, we come to the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering. These fully deal with our sin as an offence against God and man, and they fully cleanse and purge the guilty conscience as it relates to ourselves.
David said his sin was ever before him, even though God said He had put it away. Was it a simple case of David trying to believe what God said? No, he needed cleansing. Most of us do not find it too difficult to believe and know that Christ died for our sins. Our problems arise when we look within and discover that we are inherently wrong at heart, and find ourselves helpless to do anything about it.
Now if it were just a simple matter of knowing what God said, and determining we were going to believe it, the matter could quickly be settled. For Paul does tell us to "reckon" ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God. But how many of us have "reckoned" and "reckoned" again, only to discover that the problem still remains.
No wonder the apostle Paul, having declared these truths of "reckoning" as God "reckons" in Romans 6 goes on into Chapter 7, with loud crying and groaning for deliverance, For it is not by the carnal mind that you can determine to find the victory of the Cross... but only as you take up that Cross and bear it. It takes a Divine operation. It takes a working of the Spirit in our lives who, in spite of our knowledge of what God has done, nevertheless continue to labour under the weight of a sin-burdened conscience. It takes a deep work of repentance; yet we must know and realize that this too is a work of God.
"For I acknowledge my transgressions;
And my sin is ever before me,
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in thy sight:
That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest,
And be clear when thou judgest."
This is the first step we must take if we would enjoy full restoration unto God, and know the joy of His salvation. Acknowledge that God is right, and we are wrong! This seems so difficult, but we will get nowhere until we put away all our excuses. I inherited this bad temper, this evil nature. I got this wrong spirit from my family background. My father had this problem, and my grandfather had it. And there are many sincere ministers, seeking to help the one burdened down with his load of guilt, who go along with the excuses, if by any means he might somehow get to the real root of the problem. We all know and understand that this is so, and even David recognized it.
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity;
And in sin did my mother conceive me."
My mother sinned... and my father sinned... and my grandfathers sinned... but now its my problem. Adams transgression has become mine; but the Last Adam fully dealt with Adams transgression on the Cross, and what we need now is that operation of the Spirit of God in our lives that will break the ancestral link that we once had with the Old Adam, and become joined unto the Last Adam. Now what purpose is there in trying to trace our ancestral problems back one, two, or three generations... when there is in reality an unbroken link of problems all the way back to Adam? God broke that link at the Cross. The Holy Spirit has absorbed into His Being the wondrous efficacy of the Blood; and we know and experience that cleansing as we learn Gods ways and walk in that Spirit.
True it was Adams fault. But now its my fault. I cannot blame Adam, or my forefathers, or my parents... it s now my fault.
The sooner we leave our excuses aside, and take the responsibility, the sooner will we know the joy of His salvation. We must simply face the facts, and ACKNOWLEDGE THE TRUTH.
Paul says, "If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the Devil, who are taken captive by him at his will" (2 Timothy 2:25,26).
So then we cant really blame the Devil either. O how human nature would like to put the blame somewhere else--anywhere--as long as we can excuse ourselves. My father had this problem. I have this bad habit because of my grandfather. The Devil made me do it .
We must face up to the Truth. Acknowledge the Truth. IM WRONG. GOD, YOU ARE RIGHT! The "hyssop" is right there at our feet... but we must stoop low and pluck it up... dip it in the water of cleansing, and apply it to the heart.
"Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts:
And in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
Men have devised many "patterns" for the cleansing of Gods people... legalistic patterns that never really accomplish the desire of Gods heart. We need to pray one for another in their problems. We need to take one anothers burdens and bear them, as king-priests, into the Holiest of All... interceding on their behalf. There are times when we need to confess our faults one to another, as God by His Spirit would show us His will in the matter, and direct us to someone who in a merciful and priest-like manner will take our burden "outside the camp," and in "a clean place." Remember, God deals with sin in a "clean place." God doesnt want his priests to expose the erring one in all his nakedness to the unsanctified gaze of a lot of carnal people. When Moses washed Aaron and his sons it was at the Laver, in the outer court of the Tabernacle--at the doorway of the Holy Place. No one but priest and Levite was permitted in that area. And that area was exposed only to Heaven above. Surrounding the Court was a high linen covered fence, five cubits tall--higher than any man in all Israel. The "water of separation" was prepared in a clean place "outside the camp." And in spite of the hatred and the scoffing that was heaped upon Jesus, God was doing something in "a clean place" and in Gods eyes Calvary was the holiest place on earth when Jesus hung there on the cross. God would not let Him die within the walls of Jerusalem. It had to be "without the camp" and "in a clean place." And should God in His grace ever permit you and I to share the guilt of sin that hangs heavy upon a brother or sister, remember we are dealing in holy things. That sin, confessed and borne before the throne of Grace no longer belongs to that individual. Henceforth it belongs to Christ! You must forget it!
It is not really a delightful thing to hear the sins of an erring one being poured out in your ears... but it is a blessed experience to see the humble and the contrite heart broken before Him. The distressing part is that somehow it seems so difficult to actually forget what God has forgotten. O for a pure heart... that would cause us to forget what He has forgotten! I shall never forget the testimony of a precious brother who was ministering to a group of sin-burdened souls in some European country. They came with broken hearts and unloaded their sins and their problems one by one, as he bore them up before the throne of Grace. Then he confessed how dirty he felt, with his mind cluttered up with the sins of Gods people. Then he prayed, "Lord take away the memory of all this filth..." A few moments later he looked about the room... and to his surprise he could not remember one sin that had been confessed. God had completely obliterated it from his mind.
What had happened? There was such a flowing of the Spirit of God in their midst, that God had washed away the very memory of sins forgiven, and cleansed, and FORGOTTEN! God had forgotten, and had even caused the priest of the Lord to forget!
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
We all know its in the Blood; its not really in the hyssop. But O how God would emphasize to you and me that grace and forgiveness and cleansing are growing there at our feet. Salvation is there within our grasp, if we would but acknowledge the Truth instead of trying to excuse ourselves and deceive ourselves.
Through painful experience David was able to identify with the Truth, and to cast himself upon the mercy of God for needed grace. He learned that he could not trust in his own heart, that his innermost being was wrong... that he had to be changed.
"Make me to hear joy and gladness;
That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins,
And blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God;
And renew a right spirit within me."
Happy is that one who has been graced of the Lord to trace all his troubles right down to the depths of his own heart. Then he has no more words to say about anyone else... no one to condemn... no one to point his finger at. All the trouble is on the inside. No one can harm you from without. The man who has discovered the true source of his own wretchedness is left speechless. And then the clean heart and the renewed spirit bring forth a new kind of worship: a worship that is in Spirit and in Truth.
"O Lord, open thou my lips;
And my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it:
Thou delightest not in burnt offering."
We hear much in the religious world today about sacrifice, and how God delights in it. Sacrifice until it hurts... give what you have to God, and He will prosper you. But God says there is something better than sacrifice, and it is "obedience." "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice..." God says there is really only one kind of sacrifice that is acceptable. If this one kind of sacrifice is there, then the others will be acceptable in their time and place. But this one kind is all important:
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise."
* * * * * * * * * *
In closing I would like to emphasize a few things by way of further encouraging Gods people in the ways of the Lord. Your heart bears witness to what we are saying and cries out for reality. You wonder what you might do to hasten on the good work that you know God has begun. God would have us to know that there are no short-cuts for the people of the Way. In fact, He generally leads them the "long" way around. In our impatience to hasten on the work of the Lord we might very well hinder the coming forth of the precious fruit God so desires to bring forth in your life and mine, We have to know and understand that it is Gods work and not ours. But He does require that we simply submit ourselves to His dealings, and to make His Lordship the uttermost pursuit of our lives. The conflict arises from our inability to give Him that Lordship by mere human endeavour. The God who purposed and planned must also be the God who brings into being that which He has desired.
Very often we think we walk alone and in darkness; but His presence is very near even when we know not. The disciples who walked on the road to Emmaus thought for sure that Jesus was dead; yet all the while Jesus was walking by their side, comforting their hearts, and assuring them that nothing had happened that was contrary to the Scriptures and to Gods plan and purpose. Why did He not there and then make Himself known and reveal Himself clearly? Because He was waiting for the moment of the "breaking of the bread." Then were their eyes opened, and they KNEW HIM! Are we willing, then, to become that broken bread in His hands that the Light of His glory might shine forth?
I recall as a younger man how earnestly I had been seeking the Lord for the gift and the ministry that I felt assured He had for me. But on this particular occasion the only Word I could get... and it would come to me over and over again in various ways... was this passage from Micah 6:8,
"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good;
And what doth the LORD require of thee,
But to do justly,
And to love mercy,
And to walk humbly with thy God?"
At the time I remember how clear it was; and I knew He was speaking to me. But somehow I wasnt quite able to accept that as the total answer to my seeking. I really wanted to know about the gift and the calling of God that I felt had rested upon my life from my earliest recollections of childhood.
And so for years and years I was waiting for that opportune moment when I thought God would send me forth into ministry. I did not realize that ministry was NOT something that you went into or went out of, but something that God wanted you to become. Now I think I understand a little better. Now I realize that there can be no higher calling for any man, woman, boy or girl than the calling and ministry that flows from a life that simply walks in humility before God. For one cannot walk with God and not partake of His nature and character, and come to know Him as He really is. Therefore Moses prayed,
"Show me now THY WAY,
That I may KNOW THEE..." (Exodus 33:13).
I do not speak as one who has attained in any measure beyond others... but as one in fellowship with others... that we might go on with God together. Caleb and Joshua cannot settle down in their inheritance until they bring the people of God into theirs. The priests of the Lord must stand still in the bottom of the Jordan, while the people of God march across the river on dry land... and they actually enter into the land before the priests do. The purpose and end of true ministry is to make and bring forth a true priestly ministry in others.
Therefore we greatly desire the fellowship of Gods people. (By that we do not mean we earnestly look forward to rallies and get-togethers that have for their objective a lot of good music and good lively singing, and a nice happy time together.) By fellowship we mean what John meant: "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, WE HAVE FELLOWSHIP one with another " How we anticipate and long for such fellowship! Gathering together unto Him, and pursuing with one accord the Vision of God: That we might worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, that we might be a people "to the praise of His glory," that we might be conformed to the image of His Son, that we might become the Bread of God in His Hands: Blessed only that we might become a blessing unto others... Broken, that He might make Himself known.
TAKE THE LITTLE BOOK, AND EAT IT
We believe we are living in the day of the opening of the seventh seal, and swiftly approaching the hour of the blowing of the seventh trumpet. I do not question that the Book of Revelation is for the whole Church Age, otherwise why would God have admonished His people to "read" it and to be "blessed" by reading it, if it was not for them? But the seven thunders seemed to have special significance for the end-time, because John was not permitted to reveal what was said. It would not have had vital meaning to the people of his time, as it would in the time of the end, when the mystery of God is to be finished. But John is admonished to take the little book that is open, and to eat it. The Book of Revelation was given to Gods servants, but it was sent to Gods servant John--as the representative of all who are called and chosen and faithful, And so John went unto the angel, "and took the little book out of the angels hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter" (Revelation 10:10). David said that Gods Word was sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
Now so-called "end-time Truth" is the same Truth that Jesus WAS when He was here; for He is the Truth. But Jesus, faithful ever to speak only what the Father would bid Him to speak, did not fully declare and reveal all the Truth when He was here; but reserved "many things" for revelation when His people were ready for it. The Spirit of Truth would come to abide within His people, and complete the work that Jesus began. The Holy Spirit did not return to the Throne after He had inspired the writing of the last book of the New Testament canon, but He continues to abide in His Temple... and continues to reveal the Father, to reveal Truth, to unfold "many things" that people were not able to bear in times past. We are not inferring that He is saying things that are not written in the Bible. We simply recognize that there are many things in that precious Book that remain hidden and obscure until the Spirit of God is prompted from the Throne to bring them forth. Would God that His ministers everywhere would quickly learn that they only have authority to minister what the Spirit is ministering... BECAUSE HE ONLY HAS AUTHORITY TO MINISTER WHAT HE HEARS FROM HEAVEN: "Whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak."
God has been faithful in this past decade or two in bringing forth "end-time truth." Is end-time truth different from other truth? Not really. But there must be a particular phase of ministry and Truth revealed in the day and the hour when the "mystery of God is to be finished." And the time is here when God would say to the end-time people who have embraced end-time truth: GO TAKE THE LITTLE BOOK AND EAT IT. This message will not bring forth that Living Word for the nations of the earth until we EAT THE BOOK. True, it will be "bitter" as you digest it, but it is only in the EATING of the Word that God would bring forth in this hour that clear, sanctified, pure and holy Word that proceedeth directly from the throne of God. We cannot overemphasize the fact that the Holy Spirit in this hour will insist that the people of God submit themselves unto the Lordship of Christ. We cannot overemphasize the fact that Gods ministers are required in this hour to seek the Lord for grace and enablement to speak and to declare only what He the Holy Spirit is speaking, and to do only what He is doing. The bitterness that we shall know in the digesting of the Truth will take away and remove any vainglorious desire to display our knowledge in the eyes of men. The bitterness of the Word working within us will purge away all thoughts of grandeur and of greatness, and leave us "dumb" (like Ezekiel of old), until the hour when God shall open our mouths; and then we shall be enabled to speak that clear, infallible Word direct from Gods own heart. Then after the bitterness had taken hold of John, God said: "Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings."
O what a pure Word will come forth in that day! A pure Word to all nations! Here is a people who have eaten the Book, and knowing the bitterness of the Cross in their lives they will have become merciful and faithful priests to men of every color, tribe and nation. The bitter herbs of the Passover meal... the bitter hyssop of a broken and contrite spirit... will have completely removed all bitterness from their lives; and they will show forth the mercy and the compassion of Jesus from their lives. They will not be entertainers. They will not be supported in their task with "ministries" of "mime" and "puppets" and "rock-musicians" that go about today in the Name of Christ making merchandise of holy things. These people have known and have eaten the bitter herbs, like Joseph in an Egyptian prison, like Moses in the Midian desert, like David in the wilderness of Judaea, like Jeremiah in the mire of the dungeon... and now they stand before the peoples of the earth with a clear, living Word from the mouth of God.
God is saying to His people: I have been faithful in giving you of the Water of Life and of the Bread of Life. You have tasted of My Word and have found it to be sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. But now I say unto you, Go, take the little book and eat it, otherwise it will not profit you. Fear not to swallow it and digest it. For only then will it become a part of your being. And only then will you be able to bring forth that living Word of Life to the nations of the earth...
- The End
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