Beauty for Ashes Part I - The Family of God

The Family of God
- George H. Warnock


Another Test For The Sons Of Jacob

Let us guard against that jealous spirit that runs rampant in the midst of God's people... not only concerning natural things, but concerning spiritual things. God must root out of our lives all that striving to succeed, and to become better than our neighbour. When God bestows more abundant honor on "those parts which lack" (as He said He would do), let us guard our spirits lest we be inclined to reject them, because they appear to be climbing a little higher in God than we are, and we appear to be falling short. Let not God's goodness to them provoke a spirit of envy in us. Pride is at the root of it all. We feel we are really better... so when others receive more from God, some do not like it. Perhaps they excelled in the past and got to the top... and now they want to stay in the top position.

God help us to know that He never blessed anybody to make them higher, but that they might partake of grace to be more humble. A ministry is a "service," and that is what the word means. The true minister is a servant of God; a servant to the people, and not their master. Why then all this exaltation of clergy above laity? And who started that grand distinction of "clergy" and "laity" anyway? How can one take the name "reverend" ...a name that is applied to God alone? ("Holy and Reverend is His Name" Psa. 111:9). The word means "to be feared." Rather God gave His ministers a gift of service, and with that gift there is enabling power to impart, and enhance, and promote the life of Christ in others. In God's sight there is no distinction, other than in the particular function of their calling. They are all "brethren" in His sight. After God had honored David so highly by giving him power over the Philistine giant, the women came out of the villages singing...

"Saul hath slain his thousands...
And David his TEN thousands..."

"So," reasoned Saul, "they are giving David more honor than they are giving me... next, he will want the kingdom!" He was judging David's heart according to the condition of his own. David had no such aspirations... he knew what God had promised; and he would continue to humble himself before God, and even before Saul. Almost from Saul's beginning as king, those seeds of self-will and rebellion, and envy, and jealousy, had taken root in his heart. Pride will blind the eyes, so that you cannot see it, or know it is there. Because Saul refused to deal with the rebellion and self-will and envy of his heart, he allowed seeds of jealousy to grow until he was harassed by an evil spirit.

As God begins to bestow abundant honor on those who are "lacking" in the Family of God, as I know He is going to do, we are going to see a lot of envy and jealousy asserting itself in the hierarchy of the ministry. Nicolaitanism is not something that died out in the early Church. (The word means "to conquer the people.") There is a strong Nicolaitan hierarchy in the Church today, that is determined to keep the people subdued, and God is going to set His people free. He is going to bestow His own honor upon His humble ones. And let us rejoice when we see this happening... even if it appears they are receiving more than we have. But we need also to pray for them lest in their enrichment they too fall into the trap of "pride" and thus forfeit the grace that God gave them, by assuming a position of self-importance because of their gifts.

This is the test that Joseph's brethren were subjected to, as God gave him honor and favour in the sight of his brothers; and they eventually sold him "through envy" into Egypt. And now this is the test that a proven and tried vessel, proven and tried in the furnace of affliction, would bring to bear upon these same brothers in the time of their desolation. Had they really changed? Had God wrought true repentance in their hearts?

And so as they sat feasting about the table together, Joseph would send portions from his table to his brothers... but he sent a five-fold portion to Benjamin! Little Benjamin who sat at the foot of the table, for he was the youngest of them all! How would his brothers react to this? Would there be envy, jealousy, complaining?

Ah No! They were in trouble now. God had brought them very low. The famine had achieved the purpose God had in mind when He sent it. They rejoiced for Benjamin. A little later, when they went on their way, the sons were all given changes of raiment... but Benjamin received "three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment." (The number FIVE stands out in the Scriptures as the number of GRACE, the number of God's unmerited favor towards man.)

The famine had produced contrition of heart, repentance, humility, meekness, kindness, brotherly love... God knows how to bring the Family of God into harmony with Himself and with one another!

Still Joseph was a stranger to them. They knew him not! What is it going to take for the Lord of Glory to come forth in our midst in such a way that we will be able to say in honesty and truth: "We have seen the Lord"?

Well, you say, He is coming again, and we shall see Him. I know that. But I also know that there is to be a visitation of the Lord of Glory in the midst of His people who are His special Family, before He is openly unveiled before the world. Jesus said, "The world seeth me no more, but YE see Me"... and He was talking about coming to them in His Spirit.

There is that visitation of the Lord of Glory, that consumes the sin and the evil that is in the hearts of His people; and John says the reason men sin is because they have not SEEN Him. (See 1 John 3:6; 3 John 11).

There is that visitation of the Lord such as Paul had, long after His ascension, when He appeared on the Damascus road, and shone forth with a light brighter than the noonday sun.

There is the appearing of the Lord in the midst of His people where they shall SEE HIM, and they shall become LIKE HIM, "for they shall SEE HIM AS HE IS" (1 John 3:2).

There is that shining forth of the Lord in the midst of His people, when... "beholding as in a glass the GLORY OF THE LORD, we are CHANGED INTO THE SAME IMAGE from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).

The Hour Of Repentance Draws Nigh

The sons were sent on their way home with corn for their families, with the money in their sacks, and with Joseph's silver cup in Benjamin's sack. For Benjamin was something special to Joseph... and he was next in line to be taken into captivity. When they had just got a little beyond the city walls Joseph sent his servant to apprehend them... and to accuse them for stealing his silver cup.

Of course, they were absolutely sure that none of them had done that. And all the while the servant was opening and closing their sacks they stood by quite satisfied and contented... they just knew no such thing had happened.

Then suddenly, utter devastation, when the servant of Joseph discovered the cup in Benjamin's sack! Immediately they were taken back to the city, and brought before the lord of the land.

What was God really doing? Just revealing, seeking to uncover the secrets of their hearts. The silver cup was just a ploy. The boys knew they had not stolen that... but they had done things far worse than that, and thought they got away with it. People get disturbed when they are falsely accused. Perhaps we had better stop and think to ourselves: "I know I didn't do that... but yes, I have done things much worse." If we can do that in such an hour, we may discover the grace for the trial, and the cleansing and the forgiveness we need. These boys were responsible for Joseph's afflictions, and for all the misunderstandings that he had to endure. It was fitting retribution that they should be apprehended for sins they did not commit.

"Let him curse," David said of Shimei who walked along the hillside with the company that was fleeing Jerusalem at the time of Absalom's rebellion. "Let him curse, God told him to do it."

Shimei was wrong for cursing the Lord's anointed. But David knew at that particular time that it was something he needed, some form of judgment that God had laid upon him, and he recognized that God told Shimei to curse David. Don't let this bother you. It wasn't Nathan that God sent with this hard word... it was Shimei. Nathan was not a cursing man, and God will not ask you to do the cursing if you are a Vessel of Mercy. But Shimei was a cursing man, and so God gave him that dirty job to perform, and David knew it was coming to him. He knew that God was fulfilling a long outstanding judgment concerning his great sin; and because he received it all as from the Lord, God wrought grace and humility in David's heart.

God used Shimei for this dirty job. Take heed, you who delight in seeing God use your curses to harass and judge the people of God. Your curses might be effective, if God permit... if God has decreed that judgment was necessary. But may God have mercy on you, and cause you to question Him, as to why He chose you for this dirty task, rather than a Vessel of Mercy. God found Shimei "fit" for such a task. Let us stop praying, "God use me," and start praying, "God make me FIT to be a Vessel unto Honor, and FIT for the Master's use."

Silver is a type of Redemption; and God was using this silver vessel in a redemptive manner. Joseph was able to hear the sons say from their own lips, "God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are thy lord's servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found" (Gen. 44:16).

But Joseph refused to take them all as bond-slaves. His heart yearned over them, and all along he was looking for an opportunity to bestow great grace upon them. But first of all, he had to bring them into devastation and captivity.

Why God Refrains Himself

Joseph said, "The man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father" (Gen. 44:17).

Why, Joseph, do you insist on dragging out this whole process, when we know your heart is breaking, and you long to throw your arms around your brethren and embrace them?

I wonder if we do not often look upon God and some of His dealings with us, and in our hearts accuse Him for hiding Himself in the time of our dilemma. It has been the heart cry of His chosen ones all through the ages:

"Lord, why are you hiding yourself Why are you tarrying so long?..."

If we could only understand and know that God longs to come forth in our midst and lavish His love upon us, then we would begin to question the condition of our own hearts: "Lord, is there something within that you find offensive? Some idol? Some unseemly thing that causes you to turn your face away from us? For just at that moment when we think we are on the verge of a visitation of the Lord, You run to another room, and we are left to our own accusing heart!"

Little do we realize in times like that that as Joseph would run to another room, it was to weep before the Lord. He longed to reveal himself to his brethren, far more than they longed to see him. If we only knew that our Lord longs to come to us in the Beauty and Glory of His presence, far more than we long to receive Him! But by nature we are not compatible with His Glory. It would only devastate and destroy us. It is only the broken and the contrite heart that can receive of His Presence--and little by little as there is heart-searching and repentance and commitment, little by little He comes to us, and makes Himself known.

The Commitment Of Praise

God wants a deeper, and a still deeper commitment. We hear it so much... we talk about it a lot. And I believe that in teaching it, and mentioning it often, God is preparing our hearts for the day and hour when we will be enabled to give Him our all. I think that if the Lord were to come suddenly and tell us plainly: "Now I want this, and I want that..." it could be so devastating and so far beyond our ability to hear, that we might draw back. But little by little as He draws in the net, and we find ourselves in areas of confinement that devastate us, and leave us in utter perplexity, we are confronted with the inevitable: "Look now, son... daughter... there is no way to go! There is no way out! Better sell out completely to your Lord!"

Why do we hesitate? And why do we fear to give Him all, that we might have Him? It can only be because we have not known Him as we ought. We have not seen Him as we ought. Is He not enough? Have our eyes been so blinded by sin, by self, by condemnation, by wrong thinking about Him, that when He says, "Give Me your all, that I might give you My ALL"... we shrink back, and say "Yes, Lord, but please... not THIS..."?

God does reveal Himself from time to time to His people... but before we behold Him in the fulness of His Presence, the Lord is waiting for the ultimate commitment, which I am going to call THE COMMITMENT OF PRAISE!

Before the second trip to Egypt, the boys had been making commitments to their father, in order to persuade him to release Benjamin; for they just knew they could not stand before Zaph-nath-paaneah without Benjamin by their side. Reuben said, "Leave it to me, Dad... if I don't bring Benjamin back, slay my two sons." Later Judah said, "Dad, send Benjamin with me... I will be surety for him... if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever" (Gen. 43:9).

Now they stand before the lord of the land, and Benjamin is taken to be a bondslave of Pharaoh. Here is your opportunity, Reuben and Judah! Speak up!

But Reuben is silent. Of course, he did not have his two sons with him, or perhaps he would offer them to Pharaoh. He told Jacob he could slay them if he did not bring Benjamin back! Speak up Reuben! But Reuben is silent. Reuben was the first born, and he proved to be "unstable as water." The first-born, the natural man, is slow to relinquish his own title-deed. My sons? Yes! But not myself.

But Judah steps forward and makes such a commitment, you just know God has wrought a great work in his heart. It was Judah that said about twenty-two years earlier:

"Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites..." (Gen. 37:27).

Of course, that was a long time ago. Let bygones be bygones! Let's just be the big happy family of God! Ah no! God will continue to harass and devastate His people until there comes forth true humility and repentance; for only then can the Body of Christ function and move in the earth as the expression of the living Christ.

Now "Judah" means "Praise," and that is why we are talking about the COMMITMENT OF PRAISE! Hear what PRAISE has to say:

"For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. Now therefore, I pray thee, LET THY SERVANT ABIDE INSTEAD OF THE LAD A BONDMAN TO MY LORD; AND LET THE LAD GO UP WITH HIS BRETHREN" (Gen. 44:32, 33).

God does delight in the PRAISES of His people, and we are not denying that. But it is time that God's people understand that PRAISE is THE FRUIT OF THEIR LIFE as well as THE FRUIT OF THEIR LIPS, and not just a certain ritual they go through when they assemble in His Name. In so many, many cases the praises of God are mere lip-service; and PRAISE is encouraged to bring life to a dead meeting. It does not matter how much self-seeking there might be in the people or in the leadership. Pride, jealousies, covetousness, emulations... may be rampant. The Lordship of Christ may have been ruled out of order. But if the people stand and raise their hands in "praise" for a few minutes, their conscience has been soothed, and they are assured that God came down, because "He inhabiteth the praises of His people."

Read the Scriptures and see what happened when God came down and revealed Himself: people would fall prostrate before Him. Isaiah would cry aloud, "I am unclean... I dwell in the midst of a people who are unclean..." People would fear and quake before Him, because of the awesomeness of His presence. There would be a purging and a cleansing, and the fear of God would grip the hearts of all. But one can go away from these meetings, where God was supposed to have come down unchanged, unmoved... ready to pursue their course of life as usual... only to return Sunday after Sunday to another programmed meeting, with no thought of giving Christ His Lordship in their lives... no thought of being changed. This is not a "judgment"... It is just a simple observation of what I see in the Church of Jesus Christ today.

The Altar Of Incense

"And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire FROM OFF THE ALTAR before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil, And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat" (Lev. 16:12, 13).

This is what the high priest did on the Day of Atonement. The Altar of Incense speaks of one's communion with God: worship, praise, prayer, thanksgiving. David said, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Psa. 141:2).

But there was no sweet smelling savour from the incense except as the incense was placed upon the FIRE FROM THE ALTAR. Just any kind of fire was not sufficient. In fact just any kind of fire was deadly. Nadab and Abihu discovered that. IT HAD TO BE FIRE FROM OFF THE ALTAR that would consume the incense, and cause the cloud to ascend unto God. David speaks about the "high praises" of God that were to be in the mouths of His people. The word "high" means "to mount up" or "to ascend." The "high praises of God" are the praises that MOUNT UP, that ASCEND from lips that have known the fire of the Brazen Altar. They could start no fire of their own in the Holy Place as they stood before the Veil, which secluded the Ark of the Covenant and God's Glory from their view. The Altar of Incense in the Holy Place was not constructed for burning sacrifices, but in acknowledgment of, and in praise of Him who became our Sacrifice on the Brazen Altar. It was out there that the fire had to be kindled. If there is to be true worship, and praise, and adoration, and prayer... it must be kindled from the FIRE OF THE ALTAR. It must come from the place of sacrifice. It must come from the place of commitment, of consecration. And the fire that consumed the sacrifice would become coals in the burning censer, to cause the cloud to ascend and cover the mercy seat. John saw the angel of God standing before the Altar of Incense, and adding incense to the prayers of the saints... and I am sure the word "prayers" includes our whole life of communion before God: prayer, praise, worship, thanksgiving, intercession... (Read Hannah's prayer in 1 Sam. 2:1-8, where she asked God for NOTHING... and Habakkuk's prayer in Hab. 8:1-19, where he prays... recounts the mighty works of the LORD... rejoices in his God... and commits the whole prayer to the singers, to put it into song.)

God, stand by us at the time of prayer and praise, and add the incense to our censers, and help us to bring the coals of fire from a broken and a contrite heart... that our prayers might be fervent, hot, and effectual.., and that our praises might be HIGH, mounting up to heaven, ascending from our hearts as well as from our lips.

God help us to know that it is the broken and the contrite heart, the bruised heart, the truly penitent heart... the heart that has been laid bare and consumed on the Altar of Burnt Offering... that causes the incense of the Lord to cover the mercy seat, and the Presence of God to be made known in the midst of His people.

A certain minister I knew had a vision as he sat in one of these "praise" meetings. He saw the praises of the people as crowns upon their heads. Every one had crowns. All kinds of crowns. Cheap looking crowns. Paper crowns. Some of them looked like dunce-caps cut out of paper and put together. Then a few crowns of pure gold, beautiful to behold.

Let me tell you, beloved, THE PRAISES OF JUDAH are born out of the commitment of Judah: "Make me to be your bond-slave, Lord, but let my brother go free..." When God's people come to that place where they are prepared to "lay down their lives for the brethren"... let me assure you, God will be there to inhabit that kind of PRAISE!

The Unveiling Of Joseph

"Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto his brethren, I AM JOSEPH..." (Gen. 45:1-3).

To me this has always been the most heart-breaking, heart-moving scene to be found anywhere in the Bible!

The room had to be emptied. No place here for curious onlookers. No place here for those who have known Zaph-nath-paaneah, the Saviour of Egypt, but have never had any intimate dealings with the MAN that God sent to Egypt, the MAN that was betrayed, the MAN that was sold, the MAN upon whom hung the hopes of Israel. Joseph must be alone with his brothers.

Beloved, there is coming forth a revelation of Christ in the midst of His people that we can only faintly visualize at this moment. The world will not see this "revelation of Christ." It is an unveiling of Christ in the midst of His brethren... brethren who have come to devastation, to perplexity, to bewilderment, to frustration... and because of all this, to genuine heart-felt repentance and brokenness of heart.

I am confident that this is what God is looking for in this hour... and I know it will not come until the people of God become disillusioned with the emptiness and the futility of religious entertainment... the snappy music... the giddy laughter and the empty joy of a religious show that has ruled Christ out of their midst, and they know it not. Laughter and joy has become the trademark in our churches, as it is in the theaters. If a minister knows how to make people laugh, he has it made. If he can't, he is considered to be dull and boring. Let me tell you, the commitment of PRAISE is going to produce weeping and brokenness of heart in the people of God. The people of God have become estranged from their Lord. But the captivity of Babylon, and the famine that is coming, is going to change all that:

"In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten" (Jer. 50:4, 5).

What about returning to Zion with singing and everlasting joy upon their heads? Yes, that's coming too. But first the people of God must "ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward." They must be committed to "join themselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten."

The Lord Jesus is a Stranger to the people of God! And all the while He stands at the door and knocks and asks for admission: NOT AT THE HEART'S DOOR OF SINNERS... BUT AT THE DOOR OF THE CHURCH:

"If ANY MAN hear My voice, and will open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20).

Joseph wept aloud... so loud that the Egyptians in the adjoining room could hear him. It was a weeping of joy, because his afflictions were now bearing fruit in the lives of his brethren. His many hurts had become redemptive... because now there is repentance in the family of Jacob. Remember, hurts can only become redemptive when they have been healed in the prison of the King. Joseph could never have brought his brethren to repentance as long as he nurtured in his bosom any thoughts of greatness, any thoughts of pre-eminence, any thoughts of bitterness, any thoughts of what he had lost because of his exile. The prison... the King's prison, had taken all that out of him.

Joseph wept aloud. It was the weeping of JOY that inevitably follows the weeping of sorrow and trial of that one who has known the crucibles of God. It was the weeping of joy, as he beheld the broken and the contrite hearts of his brethren... as he saw former jealousies and hates being washed away in cleansing streams; streams that flowed from the heart, and to the eyes, and down the cheeks.

What a revelation of the heart of God there is going to be when our Lord stands in our midst with those searching, penetrating eyes and lays bear the secrets of the heart; and the Family of God begins to realize that they have actually betrayed their Lord and sold Him into Egypt! Sold Him for pleasure, for carnal gratification, for wealth, for popularity. Sold the gifts they received from God, for base gain. Sold their ministries. Bartered with the things of God. Made merchandise of holy things... right in the temple. Changed the truth of God for a lie. Exchanged the song of the Lord that is born at the Altar of God for the songs of Babylon and the music of devils.

And all the while salving over their conscience and saying, "We are doing it for the Lord... we are true men... we are the Family of God."

Some months ago I saw a picture advertised for sale in a Christian magazine. It was called "The Laughing Jesus." The picture showed Jesus laughing hilariously. Let me tell you, beloved, Jesus is not laughing over His people. He is weeping over them... weeping over their sins, weeping over their hardness of heart.

The Healing Virtue Of Forgiveness

Our Lord is quick to forgive... quick to receive us. He has wept over us, and longed for us... and when He sees true brokenness and repentance He weeps for joy as He beholds the broken and the contrite heart. It is the joy of fellowship restored... the joy of having brothers that are now brothers indeed, and no longer tainted with jealousies and hatred.

Forgiveness comes easy to God's Josephs... because they have partaken of the heart of their Lord. Forgiveness is something they have stored up in readiness to flow. It is not something they hold back until they see repentance. It is there in readiness, as it was with Jesus. He forgave us at the Cross... long, long before we asked Him for it. But we do not know it, and we cannot receive it, until we are humble and contrite enough to ask Him for it.

There is no real forgiving spirit in the man who says... "He has wronged me... if he repents... yes, I guess I will forgive him." Forgiveness must be there in the heart... and it must begin to be stored up the moment you are wronged. He must make it right, I know. But forgiveness is ready to be released. God says "Love never faileth." So you long for him, pray for him, seek God on his behalf... that somehow he might not continue on hurting himself. He cannot hurt you, if you draw nigh to the heart of God. Those original hurts you felt are healed, because you have granted forgiveness in advance of his repentance.

The flow of forgiveness and mercy in your heart and mine, even though not appropriated and received by our brother, will bring us cleansing and freedom. You would like to release it to others... but God must finish the work in them before you can do so. But it has released you already... because it flows through your blood-stream... in cleansing, forgiving, healing power... and all the while you are anticipating the day when it will bring healing to your brother.

And if perchance the prison-house of our experience has not wrought this grace in our lives, then we remain prisoners unto ourselves, and will never be able to set others free.

God grant unto us the spirit of Joseph, the Spirit of Jesus... that we might see the working of God in and through every bitter experience of life, in order that healing streams of life might flow forth from the Family of God to those who languish in captivity and in bondage.

Manasseh And Ephraim

Joseph had two sons born to him after his release from captivity and his exaltation to a place of power in the land.

"And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction" (Gen. 41:51, 52).

This is God's order: Manasseh, then Ephraim. God must cause us to forget, before we can become fruitful. You and I are not going to be fruitful until we can forget our past; and this includes our victories, as well as our defeats. This could be particularly difficult for those who have known a lot of success in the past, and have thoughts of greatness; but if God is gracious toward them, they will find themselves in the King's Prison, and will have the opportunity to know what this is all about. There has to be a FORGETTING of the past before we are going to know true FRUITFULNESS in the Kingdom of God. Consider the achievements of the great apostle Paul, and the mighty ministry that flowed from his life... and hear him saying many years later, because of the Vision he had caught of the high calling of God:

"But this one thing I do, FORGETTING those things which are behind, and REACHING FORTH unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling..." (Phil. 3:13, 14).

You are going to have to forget past achievements if you are going to WIN Christ; but you are also going to have to forget past prisons, past hurts, past difficulties, past defeats. The memories of the past, whether they be of successes or of defeats, can he equally destructive to a fruitful walk with God. But the prison house can erase the memory of it, if we will accept the grace that He has for us in this hour.

You will remember that when Joseph brought his two sons to the bedside of his dying father for the patriarchal blessing, how Joseph brought Ephraim in his RIGHT hand toward Jacob's left, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Jacob's right. In this way he was making it easy for his blind father to stretch forth his hands, and put the right hand of pre-eminence on the head of Manasseh, and his left hand on the head of Ephraim. After all, Manasseh was the firstborn. But Jacob, even on his deathbed was moving in the prophetic anointing, and he deliberately crossed his hands over the heads of the two boys, giving Ephraim the blessing of the right hand, and Manasseh the blessing of the left hand. This displeased Joseph, but Jacob gently reminded him: "I know what I am doing, Joseph... Ephraim must have the pre-eminence.

The past would have its rewards; but the past must give way to "those things which are before." By way of experience we have Manasseh first, and then Ephraim. But God puts the SIGN OF THE CROSS over the heads of Manasseh and Ephraim! Ephraim means double-fruitfulness. There are greater things ahead, a greater measure of fruitfulness for God's people. But the SIGN OF THE CROSS must be applied to our past as well as to our future, if we are truly going to pursue the pathway to the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

There Is Therefore No Condemnation

"Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did SEND ME before you to preserve life" (Gen. 45:5).

Once God has brought His Family to true repentance and brokenness of heart, He wants to remove the sting of condemnation. He does not want us to burden our conscience with the sins and failures of the past; and He has given us in the scriptures a beautiful example of the mercy that He bestowed on the greatest of sinners.

God apprehended and saved the greatest sinner that ever lived! In this way He has given us an example of His great longsuffering and patience and grace. If He was able to save the greatest of sinners, surely He knows how to bestow mercy and grace on the lesser sinners! This man was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, a murderer; but he became a great apostle, and preached Christ in power and anointing and great fruitfulness. And without elaborating in detail on all the sordid things he committed in his past, he said...

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I AM CHIEF" (1 Tim. 1:15).

God saved the Chief! O I know, we may all feel that way, when God comes to us with that penetrating, convicting Sword of His Spirit. But Paul meant what he said; he was the CHIEF OF SINNERS. And then he tells us why God chose the CHIEF. It was that God might present a true picture of His mercy and longsuffering, that all lesser sinners might have hope:

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I AM CHIEF. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first (or literally, 'that in me as THE CHIEF') Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1 Tim. 1:15, 16).

But isn't it strange... though we know these things, and are aware that our Lord loves us with an everlasting love.., that He gave His life for us, and suffered the agonies of the Cross... that we can continue on in self-condemnation, accusing ourselves where God has justified... condemning ourselves when God has pardoned... blaming ourselves, when Christ has taken all the blame?

O how we need to acquaint ourselves more and more with the great heart of God! For though He has declared Himself openly on the Cross, and by the Spirit, to be the "Just, and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus"... we still battle with thoughts, condemning thoughts, that do not glorify God. "God is angry with me, God is after me, God is displeased with me..." Let us be quick to recognize the grief of His Spirit when we indulge in our carnal ways. May we never have a heart that is so callous that we feel not the pangs of an act of disobedience, the sorrow for sins and shortcomings that God would make us aware of. But let us hear what He says when forgiveness flows from His heart:

"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves..." (Gen. 45:5). Come to Him with a broken and a contrite heart, and then know for sure that He broke that heart of yours only that He might pour in the oil of mercy and grace, and the wine of gladness. Do not indulge in self-condemnation and accusation. For if you do, you are not accusing yourself... you are accusing Him who took your place! Luther said something like this one time (and I can't quote it exactly) ...but when the Tempter came to him and sought to remind him of his former transgressions, he said, "Satan, you think you are going to torment me with my sins? I want you to know that when you bring my former sins to mind, you comfort me with great comfort! For Christ died for sinners! And therefore rather than tormenting me, you give me great comfort and hope!"

Even after this marvelous unveiling of the heart of Joseph, the brethren still had thoughts of accusation coming to them: "I wonder if he really meant it... I wonder if he will take advantage of us now that father has passed away..." And so they sent a message to Joseph, telling him that their father Jacob told them to tell Joseph, that he hoped Joseph would show his brothers mercy, and hold nothing against them. When Joseph got the message, he wept again. There was no such thought in his heart. He longed to forgive and forget. It was a joy for him to forgive. It was healing to his own soul to forgive.

All this clearly reveals that in spite of the marvelous revelation of Joseph's love and mercy for them, they still did not know his heart.

Do you find it difficult to receive forgiveness, and to know that you stand perfectly forgiven, and righteous before the throne of Grace? If so, it is because you do not really know His heart.

Do you find it difficult to bestow forgiveness upon others, to genuinely and truly forgive another from your heart? If so, it is because you really have not seen the heart of God.

Furthermore, we are going to discover that as we find grace to let forgiveness FLOW unto others... so in like manner and in like measure will we know the healing of our own hearts, and the cleansing of our own lives. For the cleansing stream of Mercy that we are enabled to minister unto others WILL CLEANSE OUR OWN HEARTS even as it is flowing forth unto others!

I see the New Creation rise,
I hear the speaking blood,
It speaks... polluted nature dies,
Sinks 'neath the cleansing flood...

The cleansing stream, I see, I see,
I plunge, and O it cleanseth me,
O praise the Lord, it cleanseth me,
It cleanseth me, yes cleanseth me.

It is the stream of life that flows from Calvary, But just as the blood of a slain bird was mingled with pure flowing water, before it could become a water of cleansing, so the efficacy of the blood of Christ has been absorbed into the Spirit of Truth. (See Lev. 14:5; l Jn. 5:6). Do we understand, then, why it seems so difficult to walk day by day with pure hearts and pure minds? It is simply because we have not made way for the Lordship of the Spirit in our lives, and in our gathering together unto Him! It is going to take a breaking and a melting of God's people, for this mighty stream of life to be released in the midst of God's people.

Do we wonder why it seems so difficult to minister real repentance to the people of God? Many are crying, "Repent! Repent!" And this we must do. But beloved it is going to take a prophetic anointing such as Joseph had, and such as John the Baptist had, if the hearts of God's erring ones are going to be unveiled. And it is going to take the Lordship of God's Spirit in our midst, if the cleansing Stream of repentance is going to be released.

How shall we minister repentance, and brokenness of heart to others, if we have not experienced it in our own lives? How helpless we are, Lord, unless you continue to search us out, and gaze upon us with those penetrating, searching eyes of your Spirit! Look upon us, we pray, as You looked at Peter, as You looked at Moses, as You looked at John on Patmos, as You looked at Isaiah, as You looked at Saul of Tarsus... that we too might know the transforming work of the Spirit of God in our lives!

I do not know who composed the following lines, but may it be the longing and the prayer of us all:

What has stripped the seeming beauty
From these idols of the earth?
Not the sense of right or duty,
But the sight of nobler birth.

Not the crushing of those idols,
With its bitter pain and smart,
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.

'Tis the look that melted Peter,
'Tis the face that Stephen saw,
'Tis the heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.

Draw, and win, and fill completely,
Till the cup o'erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols,
Who have companied with Him?

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