Seven Lamps of Fire - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 1 - THE JUDGE STANDS AT THE DOOR
The Storm Clouds are Gathering
Jesus warned His disciples before He went away that prior to His coming there would be very turbulent times in the earth, and exhorted them to be always praying, always walking before God in vigilance and sobriety .. for this alone would fortify them with the strength and grace they would require for that hour (see Lk. 21:36). He refused to give them any schedule as to when He would appear but He emphasized the need to be ready at all times. He used the illustration of the night watches and indicated He might come at any one of those watches, and therefore they must always be on the alert. But He indicated that He may tarry beyond what His servants thought He would, and that the sense of expectation that was there in the beginning would gradually fade from their hearts and minds. And so, as the night dragged on there would no longer be any sense or awareness that their Lordís coming was near .. and they would live in ease and contentment under the false assumption that "My Lord delayeth His coming.." (Lk. 12:45). I recall the sense of imminence that prevailed in the church back in the early days of my childhood. As children we had the feeling that perhaps within ten years .. and it would all be over. We didnít know what that would mean .. except that a rapture was supposed to take away the church, and the rest of the world would go through great tribulation. I wasnít sure I was ready for rapture, but I personally decided in my mind that if any one came along to put the number 666 on my hand or on my forehead -- I would be a martyr, and die. At least that was the impression we got from what the preachers would say: "You know .. weíre going to be raptured out of here before real trouble starts, but you can be saved during the great tribulation if you donít take the mark of the beast". I am not poking fun at the doctrine by any means. Itís far too serious a matter for that. But I did not understand in those days that a martyr is one who is faithful in life, as well as in death -- and he may never be killed and still be a martyr. For example, the beloved John was a martyr (Greek Ďmartusí, a true and faithful witness, though there is no record of him having been killed). Nor did I understand that great tribulation has been the lot of the followers of the Lamb throughout their history. Also, I came to understand later that God has a mark reserved for His people, which will immunize them against the onslaughts of Satan, as he seeks to corrupt their minds "from the simplicity that is in Christ". It is the mark of His Spirit imprinted in our minds -- Godís seal, that no beast or dragon can erase. This mark is called "the seal of the living God", which God imprints upon the foreheads of His people. This seal is Godís sign to all spiritual powers, good or evil -- that these are chosen in Christ; and a sign of assurance to those who are sealed, that they need not fear the winds of Godís wrath, when they begin to blow upon the earth. (see Rev. 7:2, 3). How do you suppose the beast and his kings are going to "make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them"? Right now we wonder how many people are actually aware that the Lamb is King of all kings, and Lord of all lords, and that He reigns as a Lamb on the throne. But in that day there will be a faithful witness of the Lamb in the earth .. so strong a witness that the nations and leaders will hate them, and seek to destroy them and their King. For these people are true representatives of the Lamb, and the beast will make war against them. They are "called, and chosen, and faithful". They are with the Lamb, even as they walk in the earth. They follow the Lamb wherever He may lead them. He went through great tribulation in the days of His flesh, and He does not hesitate to lead His disciples into great tribulation. But together, they come forth as victors. He leads them to living fountains of waters. They stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion, as overcomers. They feast with Him at the marriage supper of the Lamb. And finally they overcome the dragon by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 7:17; 12:11; 14:1-4; 17:14; 19:7).
We know the storms of tribulation are already brewing, for we can see the lightning and the thunder coming closer.. As we read the list of the sins and wickedness that inevitably lead to Godís wrath, and compare it with what is going on in the world today -- we cannot help but know that Godís righteous judgments are near at hand (see Rom. 1:17-32). For His longsuffering and patience .. though age enduring, must eventually bring forth His righteous judgments in the earth. We can only wonder how much longer God can wait before His wrath "is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). We have just about reached the limit of moral apostasy, where there is such depravity that men and women have what the apostle Paul calls a reprobate mind -- a mind that is so devoid of any sense of moral discernment that they argue and march for rights to live the life style they have chosen -- and do not know the difference between good and evil. Nor do they even want to have God in their thoughts. When it comes to this state of depravity, God has no other choice but to pour out His wrath from Heaven.
But there will be a faithful ministration of the Lamb of God in that day, through a people who follow Him. And these will be fiercely persecuted and hated -- because sooner or later they will discover it is the Lamb on the throne who is sending these judgments, and they will identify His followers. And in the end we hear even the rulers of the earth crying out to the rocks and the mountains, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16).
Godís Judgments begin with His House
Godís first concern is for His people, because the Light that God ignited in the church when He went away, has almost been extinguished. How and why? Because when we refuse and deny the Light, Jesus has warned us: "If therefore the Light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness" (Matt. 6:23). No doubt we have seen much of Godís judgments in the church already .. but I fear many times we do not even consider them to be His judgments .. because science can generally explain what is happening. The world, including the church, is full of much devastation, sickness, heart ache, broken homes, wounded men women and children. There are physical and psychological problems in overwhelming proportions, in the church almost equally as in the world. We have long lost our status as being radically different from the world .. for the Light God intended us to be, has almost been extinguished. Yet through it all, the general thought among evangelicals is: the Lord will come and get us out of here one of these days .. and then Heíll bring us back after the marriage supper of the Lamb and set things right in the earth!
But it has happened according to the lamentation of God through the prophet Jeremiah: "My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jer. 2:13). We have defiled Godís inheritance in the earth. We have allowed so many carnal and worldly things to come into the church, in the foolish supposition that if we become more like the world we will not be considered to be so radical after all, and we might be able to win some of them to the Lord. In this day, especially in our free land, we can relate to the world quite well. We can emphasize how God is gracious and loving, so they need not fear to come to our church. Come and enjoy listening to our wonderful orchestra and choir -- and make God to be your loving daddy! You can come to our church and have lots of fun. I am reminded of what the late A. W. Tozer said, and I would like to quote a paragraph or two from a tract I came across entitled --
"The Old Cross and the New"
"The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adamís proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.
"The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
"The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, Come and assert yourself for Christ. To the egotist it says, Come and do your boasting in the Lord. To the thrill-seeker it says, Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship. The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
"The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
"The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life redirected; he was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromises, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more." -- by A. W. Tozer
The cross of Jesus meant pardon and forgiveness and cleansing from all sin .. and certainly we must never lose sight of that. But to the apostle Paul the cross meant much more than that. It meant that the old man, the old life .. was no more. This is a revelation of Christ we must have, if we are going to walk in the pathway of true discipleship. We must know that we were crucified with Him, when He hung on the cross.
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). He died for us on the cross. And we were crucified with Him..
It is only too evident that even dedicated Christians are very much aware that we fall far short of vital identification with Christ and His cross. And it is true we cannot make it happen. No amount of self-inflicted punishment can make it happen. But I am assured that the Lord who walks among the lampstands, is going to restore that true Testimony of Jesus in the earth -- and the world will rise up against that Testimony, and seek to destroy it from the face of the earth. And this is where the true cross is revealed .. when His people begin to shine forth with the Testimony of Jesus. I know this is happening in parts of the world today .. but here in what we call the free world -- we are far from it. Our freedom is not because we stand for democratic principles of free speech and expression. It is rather because we walk hand in hand with a world that hates God and His Christ. When God rises up in our midst, and brings forth a true Testimony of Jesus in the land -- we could very well face the same kind of persecution that other nations are suffering today. But as long as our Light continues to degenerate into a state of darkness -- there is little reason for people who dwell in darkness to complain too much about us.
God is Jealous over His own Name
God is always Jealous over His people, for His Nameís sake. And so the Psalmist cried out: "It is time for Thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void Thy law" (Ps. 119:126). When Godís people have made void Godís holy and righteous precepts and go their own way, only God can solve the problem. Only by divine intervention are we going to see the changing of His people from a position of tolerant acceptance of status quo, to a position of radical change. And intervene He will, for it is His holy Name that is at stake. He has declared His intention, and He will not back down. He must have a holy, righteous people in the earth, because He is just as concerned about the integrity of His Name now as He was in the days of old. God reminded a backslidden Israel how they forsook Him even in the days of their bondage in Egypt, and served other gods. Then when He brought them out by a mighty and sovereign deliverance, and took them into the wilderness -- they rebelled against Him in the wilderness. Later He planted them in the mountain of His inheritance in Canaan .. and it wasnít long before they changed their God for the gods of the heathen in their midst, whom they were supposed to subdue (see Ezek. 20:1-31). And so He declared His intention --
"Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy nameís sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify My great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes". And then He goes on to speak about the New Covenant .. which in later times was to include people of all tongues and all nations: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give unto you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them" (Ezek. 36:22-27). God was referring to the nation of Israel, because they were first in line. They were that "good olive tree". But when their Messiah came, their hearts were hardened still further, and they failed to see Him.
Godís Wisdom revealed in Israelís Fall
The nation of Israel did not receive their Messiah, because of the hardening of their hearts. But no man or nation is so important to God that God must cancel His plans, and wait for that man or nation to repent. What is important to God is the integrity of His own Name. And so God did not stop the clock of His purposes pertaining to Israel. Rather, much to their dismay and confusion, and because of their unbelief -- they cut themselves off from the Covenant Tree of Israel. "All Israel" was not cut off .. it was just the unbelieving branches that were cut off. Most of the early believers in Christ were Jewish. (I am aware that a serious division had erupted between the mainstream of Israel, and the Jews of Judah -- especially in the days following Solomonís reign. But I use the terms Israel and Jews as synonymous, as Paul often did in His epistles). In process of time as the Gospel went far and wide among the Gentiles .. there was a gradual shift from a Jewish presence, to a Gentile presence in the church, especially because of the ministry of the apostle Paul. But God did not delay His purposes concerning Israel. Rather, it was the occasion of Israelís rejection that prompted God to open the door to the Gentiles, and make them to be a part of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:12, 13). There was a certain difficulty in all of this as Gentile converts multiplied, and many of the Jewish leaders hardly knew how to handle it. But Paul makes it very clear in many of his writings that there would be no postponement of Godís plan for Israel, because of their failure. Rather He chose to bring the Gentiles into the Covenant, by grafting these wild olive branches into the tree of Israel. As Jeremiah prophesied, the green olive tree of Israel had many dead branches, and God kindled a fire upon it (Jer. 11:16). God used the occasion of Israelís failure, to intertwine His redemptive purposes for Israel, with the rest of mankind -- and by His cross He destroyed the enmity between Jew and Gentile, so as to create in Himself from these two antagonistic segments of mankind, one new man, so making peace (Eph. 2:15). And so, while zealous religious scribes and Pharisees were preparing the Passover by way of commemorating the redemption of their people from Egypt, they were also plotting the crucifixion of their Messiah! And the Messiah Himself would become in the wisdom of God the Last Passover, who would put an end to Jewish sacrifice and offering for ever, and bring about a perfect redemption for fallen man from every tribe, and kindred, and tongue and nation .. Consequently the blood He shed on the cross became the blood of the New Covenant that God had designed for Israel. But the New Covenant was intended for all nations -- so the gospel of Christ was sent "to the Jew first, and also to the Gentiles". But because of their disobedience God sent them to the end of the line, and they became last. God delayed nothing when Israel as a nation cut themselves off from the Covenant. Nor was all Israel cut off -- it was just the unbelieving branches that were cut off (see Rom. 9:6, 7; 11:17).
Now if we are not prepared to receive the New Testament scriptures as equally inspired as the Old Testament scriptures, we are dishonoring the Author of both Covenants. And if this be so, we must accept the apostolic interpretation of the Old Testament. For it was the same Spirit who inspired the writing of both Testaments. If we believe this, then we must accept what the apostle Paul said about "the seed of Abraham". God was not speaking "of seeds, as of many; but as of One, And to thy Seed, which is Christ" (Gal. 3:16). So what about all Israel being saved? He tells us clearly: "They are not all Israel who are of Israel, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Rom. 9:6, 7). And what does this mean? Paul explains this very clearly also: "That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:8). So, if we accept the New Testament as Godís word, it is very clear what Paul means when he refers to all Israel: "If ye be Christís, then are ye Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29).
God did not postpone the New Covenant He promised to Israel. Rather He extended more grace to the undeserving nations, enabling them to respond to God and become His chosen people also. He is quick to do this when His people fail to walk before Him in obedience and in the fear of God. He does not delay the marriage supper when the day arrives, and the invited guests do not show up. He sends out His servants to bring in others .. anybody .. anywhere .. from the streets and the lanes .. men and women of honor, or dishonor .. good or bad. Thatís what He said, and thatís what He is doing (Matt. 22:8-10). I am not teaching that God replaced Israel with the Gentile Church. He only replaced the dead branches of Israel, by grafting in wild olive branches from the Gentiles -- and the Tree of Israel continued to flourish. By the cross, we are told, Christ made in Himself of twain (of these two segments of the human race), "one new man, so making peace" (see 2 Cor. 3:1-11; Rom. 11:13-28; Eph. 2:11-20). He did this, not by condemning Israel to extinction, but by destroying the enmity and taking away the middle wall of partition -- and joining them together as "one new man" in Christ. This is the new Israel .. the remnant of old Israel that remained in the Tree, combined with wild Gentile olive branches that were grafted into the same Tree.
Israel to be Grafted in Again.
"Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first" (Matt. 19:3). This is the way it happened when Jesus came to confirm the promises made to the fathers. But next time around it will be arrogant branches in the church who will be cut off, who have disdain (and sometimes a lot of hatred) for Jewish people. (When I speak of the church, I generally speak of it as the corporate people of God who call themselves Christian -- but recognizing that the Lord alone knows those who are true Christians, and have the Spirit of Christ). The Name of Jesus has been blasphemed among Jewry much as the Name of Israelís Jehovah had been blasphemed among the Gentiles in Old Testament times. But regardless of the persecution that the people of Israel have suffered at the hands of so-called Christian nations .. God will open their eyes when the Lamb of God is revealed in the appointed time as their Messiah. What a glorious day awaits this repentant Israel when they shall say of the anointed witness who comes to them in the power and nature and character of our Lord Jesus: "Blessed be he that cometh in the Name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:39). This Ďheí could be an Arab, or a Palestinian, or a person from Germany, or Japan, or China, or England .. it matters not. For this anointed one comes to them in the name of the Lord Jesus, bearing His image and likeness, and shining with the Light of the Lamb of God. Then their eyes will be opened, and they will see their living Messiah, still bearing the scars of the wounds that He received from their forefathers. But because of the spirit of grace and of supplications that God will pour out on the house of David, there will be a deep repentance. "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" (Zech. 12:10). What a day, when a people long forsaken and desolate, shall be grafted back into the Olive Tree of Israel. But let us remember this: when God brought Gentiles into the Olive Tree, there was a lot of teaching going forth from Judaistic Christian teachers that the Gentile believers must become Jews, by observing circumcision and the law. This was strongly resisted by the apostle Paul, and the conclusion at the conference in Jerusalem was clear: we are to receive the Gentiles without trying to make Jews out of them, by circumcision or other Jewish rituals (see Acts 15:1-21). But this Judaistic teaching continued in many of the churches -- and perhaps it was for this reason that God raised up a strong church in Antioch, where Godís people were free to move in the Spirit, unhampered by the pressure of this Judaistic element.
Now a strange thing is happening today, as many of Godís people are reaching out to the Jewish people. They are promoting Jewish customs, and Jewish traditions, and keeping Jewish feast days, and sharing their vision of a restored temple of wood and stone, and of animal sacrifices, and so forth. The beloved Stephen was stoned to death, for declaring that God had no delight in their temple that was built by man -- and now many Christians are excited to hear that some orthodox Jews have serious plans to build a new one like it! The prophet Ezekiel said that God would "do better unto you than at your beginnings" (Ezek. 36:11), and the Book of Hebrews clearly shows us what those better things are: a better Covenant, a better Priesthood, a better Sacrifice, a better Sanctuary, a better Country, a better Mercy Seat, a better Altar. For in Restoration God not only restores a people to His favor -- He lifts them much higher than in their beginnings. (This is the emphasis in our writing, Evening and Morning)
Right at that point where their long-awaited dream of Messiah had been fulfilled -- the Gentiles were grafted into the Tree of Israel, and became "with them partakers of the root and fatness of the Olive Tree" -- and of the New Covenant with all its better things (Rom. 11:17).
God did not take them back to temples and sacrifices and rituals that He had ordained for Israel in her beginnings.
Nor will He take the new Israel back to former institutions they had in Old Testament times, nor to former or present institutions that we have had in the church. Paul describes this restoration, as --
Life from the Dead
At the appointed time God will remove the veil from their eyes, and will graft them back into the Tree that we were grafted into -- and beyond where we are now. Together we will partake of the power of His resurrection -- in a far greater fullness than either Israel of old, or the church of today .. has ever known. For this new Israel -- will be known as the New Jerusalem, the only Jerusalem that is mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews, or in the Book of Revelation. It is the Holy City, the Bride of the Lamb -- on whose gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, and in whose foundations are written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (see Rev. 21:12-14). Does this not show us that the true Israel and the true Church are joined together in One Habitation of the living God?
The apostle Paul reminds the Ephesians how at one time they had no part in the commonwealth of Israel -- but now by grace they are "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Corner Stone" (see Eph. 2:14-20). This is the foundation of the New Jerusalem, comprised of both Jew and Gentile, which have been recreated to become one new man in Christ. It is our heritage right now, as the apostle has reminded us: "Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the City of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22; also Gal. 4:26), though we recognize that this Holy City is yet to be revealed in the earth, in all her glory.
An Object Lesson in the Potterís House (See Jer. 18:1-6)
It is common for the church to sing about Godís intention, and His sovereign ways -- without really believing what they are singing. I think the Lord will very often project His truth into many of our songs, and because of the lyrics and the rhythm we enjoy the song without really taking it to heart. We have these beautiful songs about the Potter and the Clay -- and we humbly acknowledge that we are just the clay. And if our hearts are right -- God may just take us at our word. He may answer that prayer -- and change the vessel in His hands very drastically. But He may not do it our way. We may see a little problem, and ask God to fix it. But what if He chooses to devastate all our plans and ideas, and bring us to naught -- in order that He might form that vessel of mercy that He wants"? For God is looking for vessels of mercy in this world that is full of hate and cruelty and violence. For many decades I have seen a very zealous church, sending forth our young men and women to evangelize the nations -- and today there are two or three times as many sinners on the globe as there were back then. I was as zealous as any of them to work for God in this suffering world, and bring the light of the Gospel to those in other nations who knew Him not. But somehow the vessel I hoped to be -- got marred in His hand, and for a long time I wondered why.
God had a word for Jeremiah, and it is fitting for today, when so many are being taught that it is in their hands to fulfill their own destiny. God sent him over to the potterís house, to learn a lesson. Jeremiah obediently went his way, and walked into the shop, and here was a potter working on a vessel. As the potterís wheel spun around and around, the potter would use his nimble fingers in the clay while the wheel was turning -- to form a vessel. But suddenly something happened. The vessel was marred in the hand of the potter. I wonder if God caused it to happen to teach Jeremiah the lesson He knew the prophet needed. It was a beautiful object lesson; and as Jeremiah looked on he saw the potter do the cruelest thing. He took the clay in his hands, crumbled it all together into a formless lump -- and started over again. He didnít try to mend the vessel. Nor did he discard the clay as useless .. he just worked on it again. There was no word from the vessel: "You canít do that! What are You doing to me? I thought I was just about ready for service .. and now look at me!" But when you gather together it is easy for you to join with the rest of the people as they sing:
"Have Thine own way, Lord,
Have Thine own way ..
Thou art the Potter .. I am the clay ..
Mold me and make me, after Thy will ..
While I am waiting, yielded and still."
--And then go home after the meeting, and continue to blame God for making you again another vessel as seemed good to Him to make it. And perhaps not even realizing that you had prayed He would do that, as you sang that song in the meeting.
But as you keep your heart fixed on Him, and continue to love Him in spite of the way He continues to demolish your plans -- sooner or later you are inclined to believe that God caused the vessel to be marred; because He knew it would take that to break your will, that the Potter might have His own way in your life. Perhaps we can even hear Him saying, not audibly but in that quiet way He often speaks without saying any words:
--Before I crumbled your clay you were deaf and slow to understand My ways .. but now you are sensitive to that inner voice of My Spirit. No longer do you need the bit and bridle that men use on horse and mule, to bring you into line with My plan.
--Once you were confident in your strength, and felt a little superior to those who were weak, but now you freely confess with My servant David, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray: but now I have kept Thy word" (Ps. 119:67).
--Or with My servant Job, who loved Me and was confident in the understanding He had of his God. But after his great trial he makes this confession: "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee: therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5, 6). And you hear the Lord replying, Now you understand why I brought you to dust and ashes .. because that is really what you are by nature. I choose to use vessels of clay, but those vessels must be pliable in My hands, that I might make it and remake it, as seems good to the Potter.
--Perhaps you had not realized how faulty your walk with God had been -- and you hear Him saying: Once you were lame, but you didnít realize it. But after I humbled you in the confrontation at Jabbok .. you limp as you walk, and the people wonder why. But I see one who was crippled by My hand, that you might walk with Me as a prince of God. Now you are truly an overcomer, because you have been overcome by the smiting of the hand of the mighty God of Jacob.
--Or you might hear something like this: "You wanted gifts of the Spirit desperately. And it was I who put that desire in your heart for gifts, because you need My gifts in order to function effectively in the body of Christ. But now having fashioned you anew, as seemed good to the Potter, you desire and long for only one thing. You no longer desire the gift, but the Giver. It is no longer the reward of a fruitful ministry that you look for, but you rejoice in the Reward that I AM. For to you I give the promise that I gave to My friend Abraham, "Fear not, Abram, for I am thy shield and thy exceeding great Reward" (Gen. 15:1).
Then we have the story of Naomi and Ruth. You may often have felt the way they did. Both of them had lost their husbands -- and Naomi decided she would return to her home in Israel. Ruth insisted she would go with Naomi -- and together they walked along the road to Israel -- helpless and forsaken, and wondering why God had dealt with them so harshly. Naomi knew of better times, for she was raised in Israel, and loved the God of Israel even in this time of her dilemma. But Ruth was from the country of Moab, where they worshipped their own gods and did their own thing -- knowing nothing about the God of Israel. Nevertheless in spite of the bitterness in Naomiís soul, she still loved her God -- and Ruth was drawn to her and wanted Naomiís God to be her God. And so she followed along with Naomi to this strange and foreign land. And when they got to Bethlehem, Ruth went looking for a field in which she might glean a little barley, and it just happened that the field she chose belonged to Boaz, a wealthy patriarch in Bethlehem. He was very generous to her, and told the young men to leave a few handfuls of grain here and there, for her to glean. What a surprise it was to Naomi, when she went home with a bushel of barley that she had gleaned from the fields of this benevolent stranger!
Thatís the first part of the story, and itís all very beautiful. But God had something far greater in mind for Naomi, and for Ruth her daughter-in-law. They were both very grateful for the bushel of barley, but it was nothing compared to what God had in mind. Now it just happened that Boaz was a near kinsman to Naomi, and therefore to Ruth her daughter-in-law. Naomi explained to her that Boaz might find it in his heart to take her as his wife, which he was expected to do according to the law of Moses. And so Ruth in timidity, and yet in confident assurance of what Naomi had told her -- actually went to the threshing-floor where Boaz slept, and proposed to this wealthy patriarch of Bethlehem. Ruthís late husband was an Israelite, and a near kinsman to Boaz. Boaz knew of a kinsman to the family that was still closer than he was -- but the closer kinsman declined when Boaz mentioned that in redeeming the land he must marry Ruth as well. And so Boaz took her under his wing, and she became his bride.
Now she could say in truth: "I thank you for the barley that I gleaned in your fields when I came from Moab. I came here as a poor and needy widow, and an outcast. Your barley was a wonderful gift in my time of need, and you were very generous and kind to me. But now I have all your fields, and all the grain that you grow in it. Yet all this is really nothing .. because now I have you, and you have me".
And from that union in the fullness of time there was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, the home town of Naomi and Ruth -- a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!
O how differently we would respond to the hand of the Potter, if we could see beyond the veil, and understand that as we keep our hearts right, and do those very simple and ordinary things that God puts in our hearts to do -- we are fulfilling our true destiny in God. And only when we move beyond the veil of this life will we understand the reason why there were so many whys in our walk with the Lord..
And so now as you sing those songs that reflect the deep inner longings of a soul for His God, you care not for the beat of the drum or the clanging of the cymbals -- because you listen to the words -- words that have taken on new meaning:
"Have Thine own way, Lord,
Have Thine own way;
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay .."
Now your true joy and delight is to hear the Word of God, and do it. Now you are learning to abide in Him .. and He in you, for you have discovered that He is your true and everlasting Reward. Your Habitation is in God .. and Godís Habitation is in you.
The Purpose of Gift and Ministry
I gave this brief summary of the Book of Ruth, to give a little object lesson of Godís intention in giving us His gifts. O how anxious we have been to have gifts that work, and ministries that are effectual, and to produce good fruit for the Kingdom. And this is well and good. But very often we are losing sight of Godís intention in giving these gracious gifts and ministries. It is to nurture us in Truth, that we might make room in our hearts for the Presence of God Himself .. that He might fully occupy this temple that we are. Only then will the world know where to find the true God. Then all else is taken care of .. when we are ready to exchange --
The part for the whole ..
The gift for the Giver ..
The barley for the Owner of all the fields ..
Abrahamís gifts for Abrahamís son ..
So when Rebekah sees her Isaac, she drops her gifts, and lights from her camel, and runs to his arms ..
Then Ruth, far from despising the corn she got from Boaz -- only to look for more the next day -- begins a new life, living with Boaz in his home and hers ..
Then we can say, "I am my Belovedís, and His desire is toward me.."
We can be confident of this: nothing will fall short of Godís desire for our lives, as we come into His yoke, and walk in abiding union with Him.
I know all this may sound very elementary to some. But as far as I can observe, there is very little desire among Godís people to make this transition from the gifts of the Spirit .. and into the more excellent way. I know we cannot make it happen. No amount of knowledge can bring us into it. But my hope and trust is that in all that we are speaking about, God will use it to produce hunger and thirst in His people, and great desire -- for the more excellent way. For He hears the desire of the humble, and will prepare their hearts (Ps. 10:17).
God must have a Prepared People.
Let us not have the idea that our High Priest in the heavens is filling in time while He waits for the signal to descend for His people and gather them to Himself. Can we not understand that He ascended into the Heavenly Sanctuary to accomplish a ministry in the heavens, even as He had faithfully finished the work the Father had given Him to do in the earth? By this I mean He is there as our Mediator of the New Covenant, to fulfill in His people all that He accomplished by His cross when He came to earth. As the Mediator of the New Covenant He will be faithful to minister the virtues of the New Covenant to His people, as surely as Moses was faithful to minister the Old Covenant to the House of Israel. The apostle reminds us that Moses was faithful in all His house (Heb. 3:5). Can we not somehow believe that the New Covenant is better than the old one, and that our Mediator has more power and virtue invested in Him to finish the work in the heavens, than Moses had to minister a law of death and condemnation to a wayward people in the wilderness? God spare us from calculating schedules that are supposed to indicate the time of the Lordís appearing. But let us seek God more for the outworking of the New Covenant in our lives, that we might be ready to see Him, and hear the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant". For the Father is not the least concerned about the way we calculate end-time schedules. He is motivated rather by that inherent longing He has in His heart for a Holy Church, a Holy Bride .. that will be compatible with His Son. All Heaven is alert and sensitive to the ministry of the Spirit in His church, for all Heaven knows that the Lamb on the throne is worthy of the very best that the Father is able to procure for the Son. And He will continue to minister to this holy church, to this beautiful bride, until she has come into the stature of grace and virtue that God has designed.
God wants a habitation for Himself .. not of wood or stone. He had all that centuries ago, and found no delight in it. So when is Christ coming back? Let us rather change the question. How do we prepare our hearts for His Appearing? Christ is coming for a glorious Church, a spotless Bride. Has the Bride made herself ready? Our High Priest will continue to intercede for His own, until He has prepared a people who are "called, and chosen, and faithful". And the ministries He has set in the body are only valid if they are hearing and speaking from the heart of the High Priest in the heavens. His true prophets will always seek to turn the hearts of the people from their evil way (Jer. 23:22). It is preparation that Godís people need in this hour -- a "washing of water by the word".. not calculations as to when He will appear.
The People were in Expectation
There was excitement among the people when the story got around about Zechariah and Elizabeth, and the son that God had given them in their old age. Then many miles away there was a couple living in Nazareth, called Joseph and Mary. But before they were married the angel Gabriel came to Mary and announced she was to be the mother of the Son of God. She did not doubt what he said, but wondered how it could happen, for she was a virgin. Gabriel explained to her: "the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Lk. 1:35). Then Luke tells us the story how God arranged the registration ordered by the Emperor. Mary and Joseph were just serving God in the little town of Nazareth, just living the humble lives of ordinary peasants. But their Child had to be born in Bethlehem, according to the prophet Micah (see Mic. 5:2). Now the Emperor of Rome became part of the plan -- for it was he who made the decree that all people were to register in the town of their ancestry. And so Joseph and Mary made arrangements for this arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And while there she gave birth to the Messiah, as the prophet had said it would be ..
Then John came on the scene to prepare the hearts of the people for their Messiah. He was a Voice in the wilderness, and his message was a message of repentance. The Messiah is coming on the scene! Repent, change your covetous ways! Give to those who are needy! Be satisfied with your wages! The King is coming! Many of them repented, whose hearts were open. But like today, many of them were consumed with curiosity, and they would ask: Are you Elijah? Are you that prophet? Who are you anyway? The Pharisees want to know. But His answer was clear and concise: "I am the Voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord". He was just a Voice, but in such tune with God -- that it was a clear sound from Heaven. Godís prophets do not spend their time answering questions as to how, and when, and in what manner He will appear. Godís message is: "The Lord of Glory is coming .. Prepare your hearts to meet Him!"
God Most High overshadowed the whole process related to His coming, with very diligent foreknowledge and wisdom, and put it all together. It was all according to scripture, and every detail of His Appearing was prearranged and known of God -- but no man could have put it together before it happened. And yet from the highest in the political and ecclesiastical realms, to the humblest and lowest of His servants .. the whole scenario was carefully overshadowed and made manifest in the earth in the day His Appearing.
Preparation for His Second Appearing
I have just mentioned how it was when Jesus came the first time, that we might understand this very important principle -- that in spite of the knowledge we might acquire concerning the Kingdom, we may have hearts that are very unlike the King -- and therefore not ready for the Kingdom. I think there are many who know the Kingdom Message, who are caught up with the vision of Kingdom power and authority .. and are still far from poverty of spirit, meekness, lowliness, humility, and a pure heart. If the Kingdom Message does not produce these virtues in His people, there is little value in the message. God would draw us to repentance, that He might beautify us with the garments of salvation, that we might be ready to stand before the King, and be compatible with Him. For He comes for a holy and spotless Bride, who must be cleansed with the washing of water by the Word.
The burden of the Spirit is to lead His people into all truth. He wants to lead us in His ways. Oftentimes He will lead us in wilderness ways, for His ultimate desire is to lead us close to the heart of God, and therefore His ways are designed to bring us to a humble and contrite heart. Some have the notion that because He is coming soon weíve got to come up with ingenious plans to get the job done. And He who is Lord of the church is crowded out of His temple, and replaced with the wisdom of man. We have sought to use the Holy Spirit to do our bidding and bless our efforts, rather than submitting to His authority and lordship. We profess we want His presence with us, but too often he is relegated to the back seat -- rather than at the wheel, in full control. You can be sure of this, if He is not in charge, if He is not at the wheel -- we as a church are going nowhere.
Where are those Rivers of Living Water?
"Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord". Didnít Jesus clearly promise us that out from our innermost being would flow Rivers of Living Water, if we believed on Him, and received His Spirit (Jn. 7:38). There must be several millions of people here in this part of the world who profess to be filled with the Holy Spirit. But where are those Rivers of Living Water that Jesus promised? And even the cisterns we have made, are almost dry. There are about as many problems in the church, as there are in the world around us -- mental and spiritual and physical sicknesses, and oftentimes the same kind of sins, and the same kind of devastation in homes and families. Why then do we continue building "cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" instead of repenting of our presumptuous ways, and seeking God earnestly for those Fountains of Life to flow once again from the House of God?
Our Great High Priest in the Heavens has every provision, in His own glorious Person, in His own glorious Ministry in the heavenly sanctuary .. to bring His people forth in the radiance and glory of Christ. And the Holy Spirit is in the church to take those glorious virtues and graces that are in our Lord Jesus, and manifest them in our midst. This is why God gave us His Spirit .. not so we may use Him for our agendas, but that He might be Lord in our midst, to show forth the mighty operations of God as a Testimony of the living Christ.. As surely as we forsake Godís Way and choose the ways of men, we will wander farther and farther away from Godís intention and desire. We cry out to the world to repent, and believe the Gospel. But God is crying out to His people to repent .. "Or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick" (Rev. 2:5). Surely we must know that when He removes the candlestick .. there is no longer any Light to shine in the darkness about us. I wonder how many candlesticks have been removed from our communities, and the people do not even realize it .. because the people are still gathering together week after week. But is there a Light shining from the candlestick? It is time to "search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord".
Chapter 2 - He Walks Among the Lampstands
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