Journey of the Bride
Beauty For Ashes Part III - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 4 - THE JOURNEY OF THE BRIDE
There are so many who teach that the meeting of Christ with His Bride is to be the greatest kidnap mystery story in history; that suddenly, without warning, the people of God are to be kidnapped from their daily, routine tasks of life, and taken away to be the Bride of Christ... whisked away to enjoy a life of ease while the world suffers the torments and agonies of suffering under the wrath of God. Donít misunderstand me... we are to be "caught up to meet the Lord in the air".... but this is not presented in the Scriptures as something that takes the waiting heart by surprise; and it is very clearly stated that it will happen "at the Last Trump" (1 Cor. 15.52; 1 Thess. 4:16).
The journey of the Bride of Christ is a journey to the heart of God; and it must begin now. When we finally see Him ("whom not having seen we love") it is because all along the journey our eyes are fixed upon Him. At every bend in the road we are hoping to see Him approaching; for He too is anticipating this great meeting, and He comes to meet us. There are aspects about the coming of the Lord that will remain obscure to us... until it happens. God sees fit to keep it this way. If the servant was to tell Rebekah, "I think you will see your master on the seventeenth day of Chislev," this would be something out of his own heart, and entirely irrelevant to the journey. Rebekah said in effect, "I will go with the man... and I will go NOW." Her preparation was in no way determined by some inside knowledge that one of the servants may have had, that Isaacís bride would be home on such and such a day.
Paulís great concern was, "Lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3). The word "simplicity" speaks of singleness of heart and mind, one without dissimulation and self-seeking. The Serpent would ever seek to corrupt, to change what God said, to adjust the Word a little here and there to make it pleasing to the eyes, something that appears to be good to eat, something that would give one a sense of being "wise." The desire for wisdom and knowledge has captured the minds of many; and from the beginning of the Church, men have been overcome with the temptation to search out the times and the seasons (which God has reserved in His own heart) and to come up with dates that they think they have discovered when certain events are supposed to happen.
But the Bride of Christ, who has singleness of heart, is content to "go with the Man"... and from that day on continues to look for His appearing. Every step of the camel journey brings us closer and closer to Him. Along the journey the Man will tell us many things about the Master that will delight our hearts and increase our longing for Him. But because the servant has been given a charge he will be very careful not to project anything in the conversation that might detract from the glory of the Master. He will say nothing that might somehow win her affection for himself, or in any way distract her from her one objective of knowing Him, and seeing Him.
And if this was so with Abrahamís servant and Rebekah, we can be sure God will be no less selective as He chooses His servants to minister to the Bride of His Son.
"And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them" (Gen. 24:60). We are not to read into this verse any specific numbers of the seed of Isaac and Rebekah. Another translation simply says, tens of thousandsÖ The word used for "millions" refers to a very large number... the same word that is used for Davidís victory over the Philistines: "David hath slain his... ten thousands." Knowingly or not, Rebekahís brother and her mother were prophesying something that God had already promised Abraham: "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice" (Gen. 22:18). Contained in the promise is the mystery, not yet revealed, that the Seed was Christ who would come from Isaacís line... through whom redemption would flow to the ends of the earth. Inherent in the blessing was the promise of the Holy Spirit, "That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:29). Peter tells us that the blessing of Abraham was that men should be turned away from their "iniquities" (Acts 3:26). And Paul reminds us that Abraham received the covenant of circumcision AFTER Abraham had received the promise, and not before... so that Abraham might become the father of uncircumcised Gentiles as well as the father of circumcised Israelites. In either case, faith was made to be the basis for their inclusion into the family of Abraham. (See Rom. 4:10-12.) In this way Abraham would become literally "THE HEIR OF THE WORLD"... and not just heir of a tiny portion of land that pertained to the twelve tribes of Israel. Strange, is it not, that zealous Messianic Jews should feel we are trying to steal away their inheritance in the land of Canaan. If they only could believe what the apostle was saying: God has the whole WORLD for you, if you have Abrahamís faith! For the true Seed of Abraham (even Christ) has inherited all things... not only in the heavens, but in the earth as well. For the Father has given unto His Son "All that He hath." (See Rom. 4:13.)
"And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies" (Gen. 22:17; 24:60).
But before Israel the nation, or spiritual Israel the Church, begins to war against their enemies, they need a further revelation from God as to who their enemies are. What a revelation it is to the human heart to discover that our enemies are not out there in the world... men of other nations, or men in our own country who abuse us or misuse us. Nor are they the people in the Church that may despise us, and do contrary things to our fretting hearts. Once we discover that our real enemies are those seven abominable nations in our own hearts that would rise up and seek to hinder our journey to the heart of God, then we have discovered the key to freedom. Then we can boast, "O heart of mine, who is he that can harm you, if you be a follower of that which is good...?" We discover that the foe is within, and that we must learn to "overcome evil with good." We discover that every ingenious method that we might use to overcome evil might fail, but that "love never faileth." What a different outlook we have, once we find ourselves "in Christ."
The slave discovers he is suddenly a free man; and the slave-owner discovers he is under bonds, as a slave to Christ.
The rich man discovers how poor he really is; and the poor man discovers he is rich, with the riches of Heaven.
The wise man discovers how foolish he has been; and the fool discovers the true wisdom of the Cross, the wisdom that cometh from above.
The mighty man discovers his weakness; and the weak can boast, "I am strong in the Lord."
The proud man is humbled to the dust; and the humble man is e xalted with Christ to sit in "heavenly places."
And then, all together, they rejoice in the victory they have come into as they submit themselves unto Him, as prisoners of His love and grace. For He imprisoned them all, that He might have mercy upon all. And in their defeat they discover the victory that Jacob discovered at the waters of the Jabbok, when he saw the face of God and was crippled and defeated that he might walk in the strength of the Lord, as a Prince of God. An overcomer at last! Because he had been overcome by the mighty touch of God!
We have been talking about our "enemies" that would harass and torment us from within. But what about our "enemies" from without? About these we are not to be unduly concerned. "Vengeance is Mine" saith the Lord. He will deal with them in His own way, in His own time; for all His enemies are to be subdued under His feet. In the meantime, God has seen fit to leave these enemies in the world; for they pose no threat to the Kingdom of God. In fact church history has shown that when those enemies out there are the strongest and the most violent, then it is that the most illustrious of her warriors radiate triumph and victory. Then it is that the Church of Christ marches forward in great strides, and puts the enemies of the Lord to flight... clothed upon with the whole armor of God.
The Camels Are Coming
"And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a veil, and covered herself" (Gen. 24:63-65).
The word "camel" has the meaning of burden-bearing; but it also has a meaning that implies "to treat one well" or to "render a benefit" to someone.
Blessed is that person who comes to that place in his walk with the Lord when he can truly say, "The Lord knoweth the way that I take... when I am tried I shall come forth as gold." In the trial we are very conscious of the burden... and less conscious of the benefit that God has promised would come out of it. This is all part of the journey to the heart of God. Before the trial there may be a certain knowledge of God; but Job describes it as a "hear-say" knowledge. "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5,6). Repent of what, when he was a good and righteous man even in Godís estimation? Repent of how he could blame God for the way God had led him, rather than understanding that Godís intention was to do him good at his latter end.
God has provided our means of transportation to His own heart, and it is not of our choosing, but His. The Servant is in charge of the journey, and He knows the way that we take; for He has come from the heart of God, to take us back to the heart of God. Once we find ourselves caught or apprehended by the ways of God there is at the same time a feeling of great helplessness, and yet a feeling of great assurance. Where is this Way taking me? What lies before? I cannot begin to calculate and plan anymore, much as I may feel I would like to. But then we remember that in pursuing our own way in the past we always wandered off into tangled pathways that led us nowhere. We remember how the pleasant pathway that deviated a little from the pilgrim way led only to Doubting Castle and to the beatings of Giant Despair with his crab-tree cudgel. And having discovered through experience that His way is the best, we return to His rest, and are more content to know that we are being carried to our destination on the back of a faithful Burden Bearer, and that the Servant knows the way home.
The camel used to be called "the ship of the desert." I recall how one man described the sensation he had riding a camel; he said it felt as if he were in a ship, tossed about on the waves. But be assured... the camels of Godís provision are suited for the wilderness journeys of life. The destination is certain because the Servant is in charge. His eye is fixed; and we must always let Him be in charge. He will be faithful. He would not delay our departure from home even for ten days... and He will waste no time along the way. Nor will He allow us to be tested and tried beyond what we are able to bear. He must stop at times to give us seasons of rest and refreshing. When He does, let us not condemn ourselves with the thought that "we are going nowhere... we are just standing still." And then as we travel, let us not complain: "I donít think I can stand this kind of a journey any longer...I seem to be tossed about like a boat on the waves. On and on He carries us, and restless though we may be, let us understand that He too is restless until He has fulfilled His mission, and brought us safely to our Isaac in Canaan. For God has declared: "For Zionís sake will I not hold My peace, and for Jerusalemís sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth" (Isa. 61:1). His jealousy for a holy Bride is very great.
It is said of Israel that God bore them along on "eaglesí wings" as He brought them forth out of Egyptian bondage. Nevertheless, to them it was a very grievous journey, and one that was fraught with hunger and thirst and many trials. But their real problem was not God and His ways; it was their own stubborn and rebellious hearts which caused them to fret and to murmur, rather than to trust and to obey.
God leads us in a way that we know not; but the camels know it. They have come from the Master, and they will return to the Master... but with the Bride along with them. Let us not look upon the camels as an instrument in Godís hands to make our journey rough and tiring and burdensome... but as the Word from the Father, working in our lives... a Word that will not return to God empty or void. For this Word will bring back to the heart of God His chosen Bride. The camels will not go astray, and wander off into an endless, entangled wilderness way. They are harnessed for the journey, to ensure that they will keep to the highway that leads home. The camels are "girded" with a harness that causes them to go the right way. God has promised He would not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we are able to endure. The camels are "girded" or held in restraint, so that they will keep to the appointed pathway of God. So are the people of God to have their loins "girt about with truth" (Eph. 6:14). The girdle of truth is part of our armor, part of our harness, to hold us in restraint, lest we wander off in pathways that are not relevant to the journey, and to keep us from doing as we please. The Old Testament priest was likewise girded with "the curious girdle of the ephod." Godís Word in our lives will keep us from suddenly bolting off in some alien pathway in a moment of stress and trial. He consistently restrains us by His hand; and as He does, we may fret a little under the constraint, and long to be free. But when we come to know Him a little better we thank Him for the restraint, and we begin to realize that what seemed to be bondage was indeed Godís way of causing us to walk in freedom. That fretful spirit in the hearts of men that causes them to wander to and fro in the earth looking for some kind of spiritual fulfillment, is not of God. If God is leading us in new ways, as He did with Abraham... and as He does with all those whose hearts yearn for the City of God... surely He is faithful to give us rest and assurance along the way. We know He is leading, but we know not the way; but every step of the journey should bring within us that assurance that "today" I am in the will of God, if we are girded with Truth. Many of Godís people have failed to have their "loins girt about with truth" and are hoping that eventually they will find some geographic location in the earth where they may settle and find some sense of spiritual fulfillment. But this will not come until we are first spiritually located in the will of God, and are "harnessed" with the Truth. This girdle of Truth will cause you to be steadfast, constant, faithful, righteous, patient. Your job may not be entirely to your liking... and we all experience that. But we must be thankful for whatever task God has given us to do, and be faithful in that. Who knows? God may have something in mind for the future that is more appropriate, and more suited to our abilities.
Only as one remains girded with the girdle of truth will we know what it is to walk in the freedom of the Lord. Without it we might feel we are free for a season... but the old bondage will return. It is only as we come under the constraint of the Lord that we will know and experience true freedom. The camels of our journey are harnessed and constrained to travel in the pathway of God. Freedom to go our own way is not freedom, but bondservice to sin and self; and God does not intend the bondslave to inhabit this temple forever. "But the Son abideth ever" (Jn. 8:35). "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (Jn. 8:36). But we are only "free indeed," and we only find true rest, as we come under His yoke.
The camels are Godís provision to bring us out of the old land, and into the new. It is the Truth that makes one free, but only as we walk in the Way of the Lord. And it is a wilderness way, because our carnal natures are that wilderness; and God must lead us out of the old life, before we can enter the rest of His own heart. Our hearts and our minds are that wilderness, and the journey through it, grievous though it may seem to be, is intended of the Lord to give us rest and to bring us home. The land of our "nativity" is not our true home. We are born in a strange and foreign land, and God wants to bring us home. It is only because our hearts are alienated from Him that the way seems to be a grievous one. Jesus delighted to do the Fatherís will, because He loved God so much He knew Godís way was the best. Paul was able to say, "I glory in tribulations also" because he knew the end result of tribulation was patience, and experience, and hope... and that this continual working of God in his life would bring about a full expression of the Love of God flowing through him. By nature we are alienated from God, and far from His heart; and the journey home is a long one. I do not mean it must take a long time. If we would quickly learn His ways, the journey would be much shorter. But it is a spiritual journey; and it is long and grievous because of the tangled wilderness areas of our carnal natures that seek to hinder that cultivating process of God in our lives that God intends for the weeding, and the tilling, and the sowing of His Word and Truth. God wants to make the wilderness of our lives, and the solitary place, to rejoice, and to "blossom as the rose." And in all of this He is bearing us, He is carrying us along on "eaglesí wings," but because of our fretting hearts, and our ignorance, we think He is driving us into thorny hedges. Rather, He is seeking to remove us from the land of our nativity, that is watered by the rivers of the old nature... and into a new land... that flows with refreshing streams, and with milk, and honey, and oil, and new wine.
Rebekahís birthplace was in Mesopotamia, which means "between the rivers." The land of our nativity is watered by the streams of the old life; and God wants to remove us from there to dwell in a new land, the land of Canaan, to be watered by the River of Life... those living streams that proceed out from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
"How far is it yet to the land of Canaan?" we keep asking along the way, like children starting out on a long journey to another city. And He replies, "Keep watching, keep looking for Him... you will know Him when you see Him in the fields, coming to meet us." For He is far more anxious to receive us into union with Himself, than we are to receive Him. His desire is for us; and He chose us not for our sakes only, but for His. We only delight in Him because He first delighted in us. We have been called and chosen "according to the good pleasure of His will"; and the purpose is: "that we might be to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He bath made us accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6).
"And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarahís tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her... "(Gen. 24:66, 67).
"And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And He saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:8, 9).
What Man Is This?
"What man is this?" Rebekah had asked the servant. It appears she had noticed him before the servant did. She was "looking for him" and when the time came for his appearing, she saw him. She was not caught unawares; nor shall the Bride of Christ be caught unawares. For "ye... are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." It is the hope of His appearing that purifies us, and that prepares us, and that gives us that sense of awareness that He is at the door.
"Therefore she took a veil and covered herself." It was an act of humility in the presence of her master; also an act of respect and honor. She was not of the feminist crowd... out to rob Isaac of his headship. And yet in union with him she would suddenly become the heir of all things that Isaac had. Rebellion is self-will; and it really indicates a refusal to come under subjection to anything or anybody. In Godís order EVERYBODY comes under subjection to someone else; and this is what makes for peace and contentment in the home, in the society, or in the heavenly realm. Children are subject to their parents; wives to their husbands; husbands unto Christ; and Christ unto God. Even in Heaven the seraphim, one of the highest and most exalted of the heavenly order, modestly cover their faces with their wings, as they stand before the throne. The most gifted and the most blessed of Godís creatures are generally those who are most afflicted with the sin of rebellion; and it springs from pride. They look at themselves and see what glory and greatness they have come to, and the temptation arises to think in their hearts, "See how great I am... See what I have done..." How can that feeling arise in any creature that is totally dependent upon God for any beauty, any greatness, any virtue, or any power that he may have? Simply and only because for a moment he sees himself no longer as totally dependent upon, and as subject to the One who sustains him. He sees himself as someone great in his own independent self, someone distinct and apart. Lucifer, one of the most exalted of the heavenly hosts, the "son of the morning," looking at himself and the glory he had, said, "I will be like the Most High." Korah and Dathan and Abiram had an exalted place in Israel in the service of the tabernacle... but they looked to themselves and to their importance, and withdrew from the authority of Moses and Aaron because they wanted to be on top. Adonijah was a prince in Israel, but he wanted to be king. Absalom also was a prince, and a very handsome and lordly one... but he didnít like the idea of being a little lower than anyone else. There are elders in the flock of God who in their role as leaders are supposed to minister truth and love and righteousness. When they do so the saints of God rejoice in being subject to them. And the true servant-ministry, like Abrahamís servant, will anticipate the day when their Rebekah will alight from the camel and into the arms of her Isaac. That is his only purpose in ministry, to bring her to that place where she is totally devoted to her Master. But when the servant begins to rule selfishly, and becomes jealous for his own authority and glory, then there is confusion. Rulership in the house of God is only effective and true and liberating as Godís servants come under total subjection to Christ. When the servant demands respect because he feels he has a higher office than the others, he there and then weakens, rather than strengthens, whatever authority he may have had for the edifying of the Body of Christ. Rulership in the House of God is only effective and liberating as each individual, according to his calling in Christ, comes under total subjection to the Lord in our midst.
Subjection is Godís way for His people... to make way for the flow of His anointing and power from the Throne. It is not intended to be a hierarchy in the Church... but a channel for the flow of grace from the Throne. In the broader sense "submission" is something we are all to practice: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (Eph. 5:21). If we truly desire to be under Christ, and have hearing ears, we will hear that word of admonition that comes to us from the Lord... no matter how insignificant that vessel might seem to be in the natural. But more specifically, God establishes a certain order in the family and in the Church because there are varying degrees of maturity that require the oversight of stronger vessels.., not to dominate the weaker ones, but to strengthen them in the faith and in the love of God. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church" (Eph. 5:22, 23). But the emphasis is on the authority of Love that springs from this relationship: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (vs. 25). Godís order is beautiful, and it worksÖ and it is life-giving and effective. Children in subjection to parents, the wife in subjection to husband, the husband in subjection to Christ, and Christ in subjection to God. And you will notice, in Godís order, He does not insert the "elders" or other ministries in this order of "submission": "The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor. 11:3). These ministries are contravening Godís order when they assume what has been called a "husband ministry" over the Church, and meddle with oneís relationship with the Lord. Their true ministry, like that of the apostle Paul, will be simply and only to so minister Christ that they might present Godís people "as a chaste virgin to Christ"... and not to themselves first, and then to Christ. This kind of interference has brought about many broken homes, and devastated lives.
Quite obviously there is a horrible breakdown of Godís order in the Church... and in the home. How could we separate these, for the Church is but a congregation composed of many homes? Godís order has been violated, and it all springs from a spirit of rebellion that has characterized this age. The children seek "liberation" from parents; the wife from husband; and the husband from Christ. But God calls it rebellion. Thank God for the Son who maintains total allegiance to the Father, even now while He reigns with all power in Heaven and in earth at His disposal. He still abides in faithful submission to the heavenly Father. He still delights to do the Fatherís will, and not His own. (See 1 Cor. 15:27.) And while He abides in this beautiful realm of priestly ministry, He continues to intercede for His people... that God might be glorified in them, and that the love of the Father which is in Him, might also be manifest in His people (Jn. 17:26). Now it is not our purpose here to add to the many writings that have been circulated, by way of giving counsel to devastated lives; besides, it is evident that many Christians are not prepared to go Godís way if it involves any kind of suffering. But we do want to encourage Godís people who have known devastation in their lives because of a broken home or a broken church fellowship. God does have an answer that will bring peace to every troubled heart, if you are truly committed to go Godís way, regardless of the suffering that might be involved. But we cannot expect to find Godís answer as long as we hold in our hearts certain reservations concerning the will of God: like, "I want Your will, Lord... but not if You will not let me do what I want..." No, we would not blatantly say that to God, but be assured He reads what your heart is saying, whether you speak it or not. The pursuit of happiness is considered to be the American dream. But when it comes to the things of God let us understand what God considers to be true happiness. It is that assurance and that motion of the heart that comes when we are totally committed to go Godís way. It was the supreme happiness of the Lord Jesus that His total delight was in doing the will of the Father.
Self-will and rebellion is the mark of this age, and it is evident both in the world and in the Church that we are fast approaching a state of total anarchy. We have "government" and "authority" everywhere... but how much of it carries with it true, God-given authority. Many of Godís people are entangled in webs of confusion and of bondage from which there seems to be no deliverance; and the world and the Church are equally filled with broken homes, more and more church splits and divisions, and more and more counseling services to deal with all this. BUT IN SPITE OF ALL THIS, OUR PROBLEMS CONTINUE TO INCREASE AND OVERWHELM THE CHURCH OF GOD. God has some very good "counsel" for this Laodicean age... but as long as we think we can handle it ourselves, God will let us go ahead, and multiply our counseling services in the Church, rather than pay heed to the "counsel" that He offers. Great will be the judgments and the devastation that God will bring, as He deals with the spirit of rebellion that is in the world, and in the Church. But out of it all God is going to bring forth a willing people in the Day of His power. He is going to have a people that will function in their homes and in the Church according to a new Law: "The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus." And for this we must believe, and pray, and hope, and wait...
The Servant Told It All
"And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done...."
Abraham had told his servant explicitly what he was to do. The true servant of God will know explicitly what he is to do if he is truly walking in obedience... if he is earnestly seeking to go Godís way. There will be times of uncertainty; but let these times lead us into greater and greater heart-searching and seeking of God. For God is committed to show us His way if we are totally committed to walk in it. But a divided heart in this will leave us in confusion.
Let the awesomeness of the role of Abrahamís servant strike all of our hearts with godly fear. When he returned home to his master in Canaan he told him everything that he had done. Be assured, the time is coming when we are going to tell it all... exactly as it is, exactly as God sees it.
Knowing this, may the fear of God become more and more pronounced in all of our lives that in this late hour, while yet there is opportunity, we might earnestly seek the Lord to reveal to us "the thoughts and the intents of the heart." For if these are not revealed and brought to light now by the quickening Word of God, be assured they will be brought to light when we stand before Him to tell it all. All the self-seeking... All that desire for the honor and the approval of men... All those dead works, all those achievements that brought praise and glory to our selfish hearts... All the treacherous things that have gone on among the ministry and among the people by way of robbing, and demoralizing, and raping the Bride of Christ... All the devastation that the people of God have known and experienced under the rule of faithless shepherds who fed themselves and despised the altar of God, and the flock of God....
All of these things will be told by the servant who did them-when he stands before the judgment seat of Christ. Let us tell it all now, as we seek Him earnestly. Let there be a cry from all of our hearts...
"Search me, 0 God, and know my heart:
Try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23, 24).
Chapter 5 - A Bride for the First Adam
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