The Garden of God
Beauty For Ashes Part 5 - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 4 - SUMMER...WARM AND BEAUTIFUL
"The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away" (Song. 2:13).
This is the most beautiful time of the year. You could scarcely long for anything better. Every plant, every flower, every shrub flourishing in its place, spreading forth their leaves and branches, buds bursting into bloom and displaying such an array of beauty and such a riot of color that the pure in heart can only say, "O God how great Thou art". Jesus said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow" (Matt. 6:28). But it was in the context of saying God wanted a people who would simply abide in Him and let the heavenly Father be their life, and bring forth the beauty that He has in mind. Solomon built a gorgeous temple, and brought forth many wonderful works, through the wisdom and understanding God had given Him. But in this passage the Lord is reminding us, in the secret language of the parable, that God is more glorified in the life He puts within us, than He is in the works that we perform by His enabling power and wisdom. It amazes me how God's people will lavish money upon projects in the Church to beautify the choir or the orchestra, or the drama team... with ribbons and banners and other kinds of tinsel... and think it relates in any way to what God calls "the beauty of Holiness".
New Garments for the Old
Surely we can see in the lily what God means by the beauty that surpasses the glory of Solomon. How did it acquire such gorgeous raiment? What did it do to weave such exquisite garments for itself? Really, it was not its working at all, but the work of the heavenly Father. He planted the seed in the earth, and watered it when it needed water, then sent the sunshine to warm the soil and cause it to spring forth and bud. It was His working all the way through. And it was by the law of natural life. How much more beautiful then is the Life that is hid with Christ in God, that springs forth from the soil of our hearts, and finds itself in God's Garden, dressed in garments of grace and beauty! How dare we insult God by bringing trash into His holy Temple, in an attempt to imitate the worship of His temple, and call it 'worshipping God in the beauty of holiness'? But He with consuming "eyes of fire" looks upon us to see if there is a humble heart. He listens when one of His beloved priests, knowing his unworthiness, cries unto God--"Lord, take away these filthy garments, and clothe me with change of raiment. Lord remove from my head the carnal mind, and put a fair mitre on my brow, that I might think as you think, and know how to walk in the more excellent way. Anoint my eyes to see and my ears to hear beautiful things proceeding out of your heart and mind. Beautify Thy servant with garments of the new man, and renew my mind after the image of Him that created me, till I come forth in Thy image and likeness. Clothe my inner man with bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering. And above all these things, show me how to put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness" (See Zech. 3:3-5; Col. 3:10-14).
What has the lily done, or the rose, or the daffodil--or the myriads of other gorgeous flowers that grow in your garden... what have they done to produce such wonderful raiment? Nothing really... it just submits itself to the spirit of life within. It is the imparted life of God that causes the seed or the bulb to break open, take root downward, and push its way upward. It is simply by the operation of life that it unfolds itself in the atmosphere and draws moisture from the ground in which it is rooted, and the virtues of the sun that shines upon it. Then suddenly it breaks forth into a garment of unspeakable glory.
It is the life that causes it to happen. It is a bursting forth of new life, out from the old shell. It is actually this new life that shatters the shell of former bondage, because the old cannot contain the new. That old garment has served its purpose and must now make way for a new garment, the garment of New Creation life, which is secretly being woven in the skillful hands of the Weaver. It is not seen as yet by the eyes of men, because we are woven in the secret looms of God. David meditated on this when he said, "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth" (Psa. 139:15). The word "curious" in this passage is the same word that is used for the intricate workmanship of fine needlework of the embroiderer, as the men and women in Israel, filled with the wisdom of God, prepared the beautiful garments of the priesthood... garments which God said were "for glory and for beauty" (Ex. 28:39, 40; 35:25-35).
Let us not fear when we see the old garments of the world... or the old wineskins and patterns of Church life, starting to crumble and disintegrate. Let us rather ask the Lord to take away the scales from our eyes that we might see the beauty of the Life of Jesus bursting forth in His redeemed. All nations must yet see the glory of the Lamb, and the beauty of His handiwork, revealed in the sons of the Kingdom. "For the Gentiles (the nations) shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name" (Isa. 62:2).
A New Law of Life
We reverse God's order so readily. We say we've got to eat to live, But Jesus tells us: the life is more important than the food. The life comes first; then because of the life we are able to gather the food that sustains the life. "Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: yet your heavenly Father feedeth them" (Matt. 6:26). Jesus is not encouraging laziness, but He is encouraging trust and confidence in the heavenly Father. There's nothing lazy about the birds of the air that come into my garden. Up where we live, we may have 18 hours of daylight during our short summers, and the birds are up and around early in the morning before I am, and I often hear them still chirping after I have gone to bed. How can they do that? Because of that tremendous law of the spirit of life that God put within them when he created them. Is not "the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus" much greater, much higher, much more powerful than the spirit of life in a plant or animal? Especially as we consider that the natural law of life is in the process of decay and death? We, as well as all lesser creatures, are subject to the law of death the moment we are born. The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus is the Law of the New Creation, that makes free from the old law of sin and death. We must seek Him earnestly that He might activate once again in His Church, the glorious functioning of the Law of the Spirit of Life, in Christ Jesus.
The Struggle to Emerge in New Life
We speak much of the rest that remains for the people of God. And rightly so. But right in the same context we read these words: "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief (or disobedience)" (Heb. 4:11). What's this all about? Labour in order to find rest? But I think the context makes it clear: if we fail in our quest for true rest, it is because of disobedience. And the reference ("after the same example") takes us back to Israel in the wilderness, and what happened there. Briefly the story is this: they had finally reached the land of promise, and the word from God was this: "Go in now, and possess the land". And their reaction to that was... "We can't". The choice was very clear. Caleb and Joshua who had a different spirit, a spirit of "faith" said, "If God delight in us He will bring us in". Their ability to enter in depended entirely on doing what God said "Go in, and I will drive out the enemy". It's not our faith that we try to generate, but it is a faith that springs from obedience to the word of God, when He specifically shows us what to do. Paul tells us that they could not enter in because of unbelief, which he enlarges upon by saying that they did not mix the word with faith... they did not obey God when there was a clear word from His mouth to move forward. They were not ready to go God's way.
Counsel, for the Hurt and the Bruised
I know there are a lot of bondages in the lives of God's people, but an awful lot of it is there because they are not shown God's way; and if they are, perhaps they are looking for an easier way out. And in the end this always turns out to be more difficult than God's way, without bringing forth the good fruit that God intended. A good counsellor will show the troubled one God's way according to His Word: the more excellent way of love and forgiveness for those who hurt them. But sad to say very often the counsellor (even the Christian counsellor) will look for an aunt or uncle or a father or mother or a brother or sister, or a grandparent... who may be at fault. And we are not denying in some cases this may be true; but bringing back those old feelings of resentment and hatred will not heal anybody. All it can do is feed and magnify the problem still further. God will deal with all that according to His own righteous judgments. In the meantime the hurting ones must know God's way of healing: they must learn to extend mercy and forgiveness to the one who hurt them. They must be shown how to return good for evil, love for hate, mercy for cruelty, kindness for unkindness, forgiveness for injury. This is God's way, and it works. It is the Way of Christ... the Way of the Cross. It heals and restores and removes the roots of bitterness that may have lain there from early childhood, dormant in their hearts, but very much alive. If we could tie together all the threads of injuries that have come down to us from relatives of the past, we would find ourselves linked up with our first parents in the garden, who introduced "the law of sin and death" into the human family.
And so having come to the very root of the matter, let us now turn to the scriptures and make this wonderful discovery: "...God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3, 4). Only the new Law of Life can rid us from the old law of sin and death.
And so yes, there is a struggle to enter into rest, but the struggle is one of Spirit against flesh, and flesh against Spirit: and as we yield to the Spirit, we come forth in victory. God has shown us how to deal a death-blow to our carnal mind if we will walk in obedience, and look for grace to show love and patience and mercy and kindness and longsuffering and forgiveness. Our lives by birth and by nature are a howling wilderness. And God shows us the way out. As long as we cling to the old law of hate, and enmity, and resentment, and unforgiveness--we make no room for the new law of Life and Liberty and Love to flow. There is nothing more powerful in this world of hate and malice, than the Law of the Spirit of Life that is ours in Christ Jesus.
Growing in Grace and in Knowledge
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18).
The faith that is once-for-all-delivered-unto-the saints was not given to bog us down once-for-all in the mire of creed and dogma. The true doctrine of the Lord will lift us higher and higher into realms of grace and truth and revelation. Because the doctrine of the Lord will bring words of Spirit, and Life, and Healing.
I am not disappointed if my flowers and plants fail to absorb all the water I pour on my garden, or all the rain that falls from heaven. I did not expect they would. But a healthy plant will absorb what it needs for that day. And the moisture along with the minerals in the soil, and the sunlight from heaven, will be transformed within, and become part of the very life of the plant. I do not understand how all this works; but I know that if these mysterious processes of nature fail to transpire in the plant, the plant will die.
I mentioned that a lot of our problems remain as a heavy weight upon us, because very often we are not prepared to go God's way. We want an easy way out. God wants us to feed upon His living Word, and walk in obedience before Him. God reminded Ezekiel that His people enjoyed listening to the prophetic utterances, but they had no intention of doing what He said. "And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not" (Ezek. 33:32). God wants to nurture us with His living Word. Of course we like the musical concerts, and the beautiful singing... and we enjoy hearing the tapes. We would travel hundreds of miles to get this kind of blessing. But is there any real desire to do what God wants us to do? God intends that His love "constrain us". He intends that His Word from heaven should "work in you that believe". He wants us to be continually reaching out after Him. He wants us to know Him in a greater fulness. He wants us to experience "the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings..." He wants us to add to our faith: "virtue, knowledge, temperance (control over our spirits), patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, love" (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Reaching upward, and upward yes. But with every measure of growth upward there must be a corresponding measure of growth downward. The higher we ascend in the school of wisdom and knowledge and revelation, the deeper we must descend into the hidden realms of the sufferings of the Cross. Wisdom and knowledge without the workings of grace in our lives can become perverted, as the prophet said:
"Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee" (Isa. 47:10).
No amount of groping in the dark can bring us into the light. We must walk in the Spirit if we would walk in the light of the knowledge of the Lord.
Fruit has Seed in Itself
"And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself; after his kind..." (Gen. 1:11).
In Christ there is an equal sharing of His life, an equal place in the design of His will... but there is a very specific calling for each of us. And for this reason, though we are "members of one body", God is very particular in His dealings with us as individuals. He wants a people for His praise... for the extolling of His own excellencies and greatness. "A peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises (the virtues, the excellencies) of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). In the people whom He created for His praise and glory, there is no imitation one of the other, because He has a specific design for each. You do not find the canary trying to praise God like the lark, or the cow trying to mimic the crow. The rose or the carnation feel no shame for not being able to chirp like the sparrow. Each is beautiful in its own right... its own created right... "after his kind". I do not compare the apple tree with the orange tree... because you do not compare one with the other if God has intended a particular design for each. And if we try to change God's order there will be bondage and confusion instead of the freedom and liberty that God intended. There is no true liberty apart from law. And he only knows true liberty who knows what it is to come under the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. If "the liberty of the Spirit" that we profess to have does not bring us into a more confined and more separated life in union with Christ, and into a walk of true holiness... we had better change the name to "the liberty of the flesh". There are not two areas in which we are to walk... the area of the Word and the area of the Spirit. The Word must be the Word that comes by the Spirit. Jesus said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (Jn. 6:63). And the words of the New Covenant that God would write in our hearts, are "written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God" (2 Cor. 3:3).
The First Man .. "a Gardener"
God put the first man in the first garden, "to dress it and to keep it". Was it not "very good" when God created it? Yes, but he put a man there, made in His image, to "keep" the garden in good order. And by this He is showing us, that although we have partaken of the life of Christ, and seek to be led of the Spirit, we always need the Last Adam to "dress" and to "keep" His Garden. God never made any creature that could live totally independent and unto itself. And we must recognize this very important principle... that no matter how greatly we have been endowed with knowledge and wisdom and grace, we are still totally dependent on the Man in the Garden to give us guidance and direction and watchcare. Otherwise the life He has imparted will become wild and untamed. We need His pruning knife to nip away the unnecessary shoots of the branches. But you say, the branch is growing there because of the life God put in the vine. I know. But even in Eden, when the curse had not yet fallen... God put a man there to make sure the life He had imparted would function according to His design and purpose. I recall a teaching that said: Adam as lord of the planet could change anything he wanted, if it didn't suit him. I don't believe this is right. He was there to maintain the order and plan and design that God put there when the Logos spoke, and God's creation came into existence: to keep it functioning in the law of life that He had established. So in the Garden of God of the New Creation. He would dig around our roots... nip off the straggly branches that He knows are an impediment to development and fruit-bearing. He may even cut it back drastically if by so doing He may bring about more and better fruit. He will train the vine to grow where He wants it to grow, by gently changing its direction, according to His will. He will not alter the law of life that He put there when He created it, but He is the author of the Law of Life, and He wants that Law to function as He intended. He wants his Garden to be beautiful with His beauty, and rich with "precious fruit". The man or woman who desires to walk in the Spirit, and to be led by the Spirit (no matter how great his gift and ministry) will soon lose direction, purpose, and design if that life is not constantly in subjection to the Word of God.
God's Garden--Beautiful yet Diverse
"Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices..." (Song. 4:13, 14)
Babylon, and those who are walking in that city, are looking for conformity. They have "brick" instead of real stone; and "slime" instead of real mortar. It is easier to make, and easier to fit together... easier to control. Now God is working towards "unity". But when man enters the picture even well-intentioned Christian men, there is a tendency to make every one conform to a certain design and pattern, in the name of "unity". But God's intention is "the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind". And so the nature of your life and mine is inherent in the very seed of New Creation life by which we are born into the Kingdom of God. Yes, Christ is that Seed... but when we come to understand Him in the greater dimension of His exaltation and the formation of His Body, we begin to recognize that He is resplendent with many facets in His ascension glory; and that it is through the Church comprised of many members that God will make known these many-sided aspects of His glory. And so the apostle said: "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be known by (or 'through') the church the manifold wisdom of God (the many-sided aspects of the wisdom of God)" (Eph. 3:10). This is beyond our comprehension... and even as God reveals it to us by His Spirit we confess that we see only "in part"... a very small and fragmentary part.
And so, inasmuch as the old creation has become the womb of the New creation, and the Last Adam of the decaying Adamic race has become the first Man of the new Adamic race... even from natural birth God has endowed each of us with certain characteristics which we call personality, which makes us different one from the other. This is all according to His own design which has for its object, "the praise of His glory". New birth does not obliterate one's personality, nor was it intended to. Rather it transforms that personality into the likeness of the spiritual... out and away from the realm of the natural. And then with renewed minds and hearts we are linked up with Him according to God's "eternal purpose", that we might begin to reflect Him who is pure Light... in His many-colored rays of glory. This reflection and shining forth of His glory in the Church is not only before the world here below, but even before angels and principalities and powers of the heavenly realm: "to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be known by (or through) the Church the manifold wisdom of God"
But why does God choose to reveal His wisdom and glory up there? Because it is in that realm that God would reveal His handiwork of Redemption to celestial beings who, thought holy and pure, know nothing of the glory of the Cross except as they see it shining forth in those who are redeemed. And they must know about the glory of our redemption, because His Church is the crowning work of all God has ever done, or ever will do... His very own Masterpiece. It is also in that heavenly realm that Satan and his evil "principalities and powers" have taken up positions to war against the Church. And for this heavenly warfare God has clothed us with "the whole armor of God", to war against them. Even as we do, the righteous celestial hosts in the heavens are quick to respond with the resources of heaven on behalf of God's elect (Heb. 1:14; Dan. 10:13; 12:1; Rev. 12:7).
The glory and wisdom that is made known up there through the Church, is the shining forth of the Wisdom of God that was revealed at the Cross. (1 Cor. 1:24). And there can never be any greater creation than the Church, for the excellencies of the blood of the Lamb can never be surpassed in this world or in the world to come. It was hanging there on the Cross our Lord Jesus not only redeemed us, but it was there He conquered over all His enemies: "And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it (the Cross)" (Col. 2:15).
Now He is on the throne of glory as the Lamb that was slain... still seen as the Lamb, because His glorious Sacrifice must for ever occupy the center of the Throne of God. The Lamb "as it had been slain" must always be seen "in the midst of the Throne" totally immersed in God. The Lamb will always be the Lamp in the midst of the New Jerusalem, from whom the Light of God will radiate throughout the City, and throughout the nations. And the Bride of the Lamb will always be there at His side, as one with Him... not in any way stealing the glory that is preeminently His, but making the glory of the Lamb to be all the more brilliant, because she is seen as the crowning glory of His creative Love. (Rev. 5:6; 21:2, 22, 23).
Variety and Color
Our Gardener has a great and beautiful design for His Garden. There will be great variety, and great distinctions... yet one beautiful Garden. Babylon would conform us to one likeness: "brick for stone" each brick cast in the same mould. But God chooses rough hewn stones for the City of God, and fashions each one according to the design of His own will each one very distinct from the other. The Garden of God is full of variety and color--yet blending together as the beautiful Paradise of God. As we walk across the grass we find mutual delight in all that He has made. Under our feet there are thousands upon thousands of little blades... all the same. Yet not really so; for there are probably no two blades of grass exactly alike. Yet each blade loses its identity in the composite carpet of the whole. We may pause to admire the flowers with their riot of color... the rose, the lily, the poppy, the daffodil... Some flowers are very small compared to others, but each equally necessary in their place. We might even have to stoop low to see the beauty of some, arrayed in beautiful garments that even Solomon in all his glory and majesty knew nothing about. We may not admire the tree so much, but it stands there, stalwart and strong, while the weaker plants grow beneath it. Neither the great tree nor the tiny flower has anything to glory in, because "those members of the body, which seem to be feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour..." (1 Cor. 12:22, 23). That strong, dynamic prophet or teacher may not be rich in grace and mercy, or even very humble. So I do not want to compare the beauty of the sacrificial life and love I see in Madam Guyon with the dynamics of Martin Luther or John Calvin or George Fox. The one may be a beautiful rose. The other, a strong, towering tree.
I enjoy reading the lives of some of these notable ones in Church history, but I have to guard against condemnation, when I realize I cannot measure up to those who walked with God in a former generation. For the world is full of imitators of one kind and another, whether it be in the world of music, or in the ministry of the Word. Why is this? I think it is largely because of the way we have been nurtured to honour those who are doing big things for God, and set at naught those whom we deem to have fallen short... I mean "fallen short" in the estimation of men. There are aspects of "the glory of His grace" for each plant in God's Garden, that no other planting of the Lord can successfully measure up to... nor should it try. Each of us, as "members in particular" are designed to manifest in the earth and in the heavens, an aspect of God's wisdom and glory that neither Joseph nor Daniel nor Paul nor Peter nor Mary of Bethany nor Luther nor Wesley... have been able to manifest. Happy are we if we walk in His will and find grace to become that plant in His Garden that He designed us to be for His own glory. "A tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified". Or a "rose" that blossoms in "the wilderness and the solitary place". Or a "branch" in the vine, that having been pruned and cared for by the Gardener, He may some day come into His Garden and take delight in the fruit that He has found. Or maybe just a crocus, that shoots up in early spring, and soon withers away. From early childhood I have gone out in the fields in spring to see if I could find a crocus. Then if I found one, even just in bud, I would dig it up and bring it home, and put it in a jar of water. I never tried to do that with the fir tree or the poplar. A crocus! It's the promise of springtime and summer! It is telling me, "Lo, the winter is past...!" Or perhaps I will stop and smell the rose. I know it is inclined to be untouchable and thorny, yet it is beautiful and fragrant, a sweet incense unto the Gardener. He knows why those thorns are there... for it was He that cursed the ground for man's sake after the Fall, that caused those thorns to grow. One day in the Paradise of God the thorns will no longer be there on the stem of the rose, for "There shall be no more curse" (Rev. 22:3)!
Or maybe He comes to the Garden alone in the early morning and finds the Morning Glory in full bloom, and He stops to admire it. For some reason it can't stand too much of the sun, so in a few hours it will fold its petals, and sleep for the rest of the day, while the other flowers come to life because of the shining of the same sun. I don't try to change that, because I must have all kinds in my Garden... and God must have all kinds in His. If others do not see the beauty of the Morning Glory, it is not the Gardener's fault; for if they would rise early with Him, and walk with Him in the cool of the morning, then they too would see the beauty that He sees... and then they would understand. God wants a people who are early to do His will, but humble enough to be silent and seclusive when God wants them to stand by and say nothing. Others may criticize but if God made me that way, what else can I do but wait for yet another morning!
Or perhaps he just wants me to have the fragrance of the scented evening phlox... I'm not even sure of its official name. But I remember its fragrance in the evening, when darkness settles down. It may have no particular beauty, and to all appearances very insignificant--that is, until eventide! And then when the other flowers fold their petals in sleep, or fade away in the darkness of the night, the Gardener comes into His Garden and there is a sweet aroma that fills the whole atmosphere. Others who come with Him might smell the aroma, but they do not even know where it comes from. Nor do they need to know, for God designed that these should be known for their fragrance, and not for their eloquence or beauty. He fashioned them. "for the praise of His glory"... not for the praise of men.
Maybe I am just the lily, pure and white. What a blessed design for His humble ones to fulfill. Pure and white, never growing very big, maybe never sending forth much aroma. But more gorgeous than Solomon in all His glory! "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow!" said Jesus. For our Gardener wants to declare His own purity and holiness in the Garden that He is planting in the new Paradise of God. I may soon wither away and die; but His Garden will continue to grow long after I am gone. And may it be a little more beautiful because you and I were faithful to abide in His Garden, rooted and grounded in Him, "the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified".
Chapter 5 - Autumn...Bringing In the Sheaves
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