Waiting With Christ

This is quite lengthy; as I was writing it I had wondered if it should be two separate entries. Eventually I decided to keep it all together. But there is much to meditate on and pray about, so some of my readers may wish to divide their reading into two parts about halfway through, perhaps at the heading “So now we come to this.”

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Before we start please pray with me. Dear Father, may our minds be renewed with truth as we open our hearts to hear and receive what You are revealing to us in what follows here. Amen.

…Let us open now with this verse:

The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool [literally, the footstool of Thy feet]. (Ps. 110:1)

This prophetic psalm of David is quoted or referred to in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage. It is full to overflowing with truth, of which we will consider only a little here. Jesus confirmed a thousand years after this was written that “my Lord” is prophetic of the Messiah, the Christ (Mt. 22:42). A reminder—upper case LORD in the Old Testament always refers to Jehovah (Yahweh), lower case Lord to Adonai (meaning lord, master).

Now this from the writer of Hebrews, who has Psalm 110:1 in mind:

But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. (Heb.10:12,13).

Expecting is “waiting expectantly.” The New King James Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Version, and Young’s Literal Translation have expecting. The highly respected Newberry’s Interlinear has awaiting. J.N. Darby’s New Translation, the English Standard Version, the International Standard Version, the English Majority Text Version, the Modern Literal Version and others have waiting. “From henceforth waiting till…” Put together, then, we have “waiting expectantly.” The same word is used in Hebrews 11:10. “For he looked for a city…” That is, Abraham the sojourner anticipated the city; he waited expectantly for it; he had no doubt he would one day walk within its gates and at last be home. Also in James 5:7. “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth…” That is, waiteth expectantly. He is certain he will have his harvest.

What, then, is the Christ doing at the right hand of God? He is waiting. He is waiting expectantly for something. He is seated at the right hand of God waiting expectantly till all His enemies be made the footstool of His feet. He has no doubt whatever that He will see this. He is the King of kings seated on the throne of David in the heavenlies—there is no higher throne in the universe—being at the same time our great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). He is seated because, unlike the Levitical priest who “standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which can never take away sins,” He has accomplished the taking away. He has offered “one sacrifice for sins forever.” Having done so, He “sat down on the right hand of God,” the place of all authority in Heaven and earth. He is seated there to this day and shall be forever. He will not abdicate and cannot be deposed. He is seated, waiting, expecting the day when all His enemies, each and every one of them, are under His feet. He is not waiting to reign after they are under His feet. He reigns now.

Wonderful truth. Even while all His enemies are not yet under His feet, He reigns, He rules in the midst of His enemies.” Let this lay hold of us.

The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. (Ps. 110:2)

Who are His enemies?

We can’t go into this at length just now, but they are all who have ever set themselves against the throne and kingdom of God, primarily Satan and his principalities and powers in the rebellion in the heavenlies, for whom God has provided no redemption, and whose fate is sealed—and also all those of the race of Adam, whom Satan succeeded in drawing into his rebellion. Yet these, even while we were enemies, the God of immeasurable love and grace determined to reconcile to Himself. “For if, when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). It is thus that throughout history many of those among men who were His enemies, and received His reconciliation, became His friends.

It is by the sending of the rod (the sceptre) of His strength out of Zion—I believe this is speaking of the word of the Gospel of the kingdom in the power of the Spirit—that His rule in the midst of His enemies is manifested. We have seen this often throughout history. Time and again in the midst of raging enemies the Gospel has gone forth in power. Christ’s enemies have never been able, nor yet are they now able, to put Him under their feet. For He reigns in the midst of His enemies, sending forth the Sceptre of His strength from His throne in Zion, all the while anticipating the day when His enemies are completely subdued under His feet. “Then cometh the end when He shall have put down all rule [principality] and all authority and power.” There it is, the cause of all the trouble in the universe, the one thing that constitutes either angels or men His enemies—their determined conspiracy to have to themselves some other rule, some other throne, than the throne of God. He has determined otherwise for them—their subjugation under His feet. “For He [Christ] must reign,” Paul continues, “till…” (not after, but till) “all enemies are subdued under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25,26). Wonderful and certain hope—all things, all enemies, and finally death too is under His feet. “For He hath put all things under His feet,” cites Paul, quoting a prophecy from Psalm 8:6 now.

And who are His feet?

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Eph. 2:4-6)

Quickened us together, raised us up together, seated us together… these are one word in the Greek. Thomas Newberry (The Newberry Bible) strings them together like this: He “quickened-us-together-with Christ… and raised-us-up-together, and made-us-sit-together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus…”

Astonishing truth in all of these; it’s the last one we are dwelling on here. “He seated-us-together-with Him” in His throne. That is just too much to take in, isn’t it. Too much. Except for faith. It is not too much for faith.

Paul is writing to “the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus…” He is not writing to two groups, but one: “the saints, even the faithful in Christ Jesus.” He says they are seated together with Christ in His throne in the heavenlies. Amazing. How did they get there? By being in Christ Jesus. For that is where He is—on the throne of God. And how did they get into Christ Jesus? There is only one way, the same way you and I came to be in Christ Jesus. We were baptized into Christ Jesus. No, not by water baptism, it is baptism in Holy Spirit by which we are baptized into Christ. Do you recall Paul’s words to the Romans, that those baptized into Christ were baptized into His death, and into His life? “Therefore we were buried together with Him by the baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4). It is the Spirit baptism Paul has in mind here—water baptism, important as it is, cannot do this. It is baptism in Holy Spirit that baptizes into Christ, and constitutes one a saint.

And so Paul, writing to the saints, includes himself, and says, “But God, who is rich in mercy for His great love wherewith He loved us, quickened-us-together-with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and raised-us-up-together, and seated-us-together in the heavenlies in Christ…” Paul had earlier written to the Romans reminding them that baptism into Christ had made them one with His death and resurrection. Here to the saints in Ephesus he unfolds this further revelation—that when they were baptized into Christ, not only were they quickened together with Him, and raised up together with Him, but, since they were in Christ Jesus, they were also seated together with Him in His throne in the heavenlies.

What a wonder. What a wonder. What then are we doing there, saints of God? We are doing just what He is doing. And what is He doing? Again, He is seated on the throne of God, reigning, waiting patiently, expectantly, till His enemies are made the footstool of His feet. Since He is reigning, we too are reigning. Since He is waiting, we to are waiting, waiting with Him. This is our expectation. We wait accordingly. And since He is ruling in the midst of His enemies while He waits, we rule with Him in the midst of His enemies and ours as we wait with Him.

So now we come to this:

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient-waiting for Christ. (2 Thes. 3:5)

That’s the King James Version. Most of our English versions have “the patience of Christ.” Young’s Literal Translation has “the endurance of Christ.” So, what did Paul have in mind? Patient waiting for Christ, or the patience of Christ? Love for God, or God’s love? Apparently in the Greek these are grammatically correct both ways. (Please see end note.) It is also true both ways. Why not embrace both, then, instead of either/or? “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love for God (and the love of God) and into the patient-waiting for Christ (and the patience of Christ).”

I wish we had a better English word to give us the fuller meaning of the Greek word translated patience. We would have one if we blended patience and endurance together into one. In the passage we are considering, Strong’s Concordance says that patience is the Greek hupomone (pronounced hoop-om-on-ay’), adding that it means “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy—enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting).” Greek scholar W.E. Vine says it means “literally, an abiding under (hupo, under, meno, to abide), it is almost invariably rendered patience” [in the KJV].

Certainly the Lord must direct our hearts, and our steps, into His love, the love of God, and for God. For, as Charles Wesley gave us to sing, “God only knows the love of God…” So we are utterly dependent upon Him to direct us into this love, the “more excellent way” of love. But since to walk in this more excellent way of love brings us, as we know, into trial and difficulty in which we are often completely out of our depth, it requires of us patient endurance far beyond our own capacity. So our Lord must also direct our hearts into the accompanying patience of Christ, and into patient waiting for Christ. In 1 Thessalonians Paul had earlier related how they “had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven…” (1 Thes. 1:9,10). So there is that vitally important truth about waiting for Christ. But beloved, as I have said, if we are called to wait for Him, we can be sure it’s because Christ Himself has been waiting, and is still waiting, and we must wait patiently with Him.

Reigning patience  

And when all is said and done, it is only Christ’s own patience that will enable us, provision us, as the trials grow greater, to wait with Him and be faithful to the end. Do we not know this by now? How often have you and I been in a situation in which we were seeking to draw on a fund of patience within us, only to discover we were very short of funds? In fact all too often we consider patience the unpleasant task of a hard taskmaster, and the sooner we are done with it the better. Oh, the patience of Christ is far, far above and beyond that. There is an element of immoveable sovereignty in His patience; He reigns in patience, reigns over all, reigns in the midst of all circumstances, reigns in the midst of His enemies, waiting expectantly till they are all the footstool of His feet. Accordingly, those in Him are partakers of His own reigning patience in whatever they are “in the midst of.” And—open our eyes, dear Lord—do we recognize You Yourself with us in that kind of patience? Patience is the expression of the reigning Christ in our own lives and difficult circumstances, is the expression of the waiting Christ, and our participation in His waiting. Patience is not something we reluctantly have to have under the circumstances; in His patience we are not under but above  the circumstances, reigning in our waiting even as He reigns.

How then may we avail ourselves of His patience in the trial of this life? Only by being in Him where He is, He being also in us. Do we recognize we are in Him, having been baptized into Him, and He in us? What a revelation this is to the heart! “Hereby know we that we dwell [abide] in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit” (1 Jn. 4:13). Let us ever reckon it so; faith reckons it so. By being in Him, being seated together with Him in His throne, abiding in Him, and He in us, His reigning patience is our patience. As Andrew Murray has said, the fruit that grows in the branches of the Vine is the fruit of the Vine and the branches in the Vine. And so Paul writes, “the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

Patient in tribulation…

In closing let us consider two passages from The Revelation. First this one:

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in the tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:9).

Notice how John phrases that. Notice how he links those two together. “The kingdom and patience…” Do you and I have that kind of patience—kingdom patience, reigning patience? And where is it to be found? “In the tribulation…” What a wonderful place to find this! “In the tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Are we in any trouble? Are we in His trouble? Then we have in the midst of it our Lord’s own kingdom patience. And we discover some precious companions right there too.

And finally this one—Jesus’ words to the church of Philadelphia (among the seven churches, one of the two for which He had no reproof):

Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from [out from] the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10).

By “the word of My patience” Jesus means, in my view, the word of the truth of the Gospel, which, in order to be kept, He enjoins patience upon them, patience apart from which the word He had committed to them would be lost to them. He is referring back to what He has just commended them for—that even though they had but little strength, “thou hast… kept My word, and hast not denied My name” (vs 8). The word He had given them they had patiently, steadfastly kept—guarded faithfully with diligent watchcare; now they would discover Him keeping them “from the hour of the temptation” (as the Greek has it) a trial singularly beyond others in its severity. Vincent’s Word Studies says, “The preposition [ek, from] implies, not a keeping from temptation, but a keeping in temptation, as the result of which they shall be delivered out of its power.” So He is not saying that, because He is now going to keep them, they will no longer need enduring patience. He is saying that as always, but especially now, they are going to know His faithful commitment to them—that in their patience He Himself would be involved, keeping them in the power of His own enduring patience.

Later in The Revelation we are given what I suspect is the account of this temptation (trial), when “all that dwell upon the earth shall worship”—they know not what (Rev. 13:8). Over the centuries there has been no scarcity of interpretations as to what this is all about by those who were sure they knew. There are many today who are sure they know. I am not so sure. This I do know, that all those “whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” fail the trial. This also I know, that for those who do have their names written therein, this is no cakewalk; they need to the uttermost a certain keeping power enabling them to continue faithful. John in reference to this great trial writes, “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Rev. 13:10). Not faith alone, but faith girded, armoured, with patience. He brings up this same trial further on, again urging, “Here is the patience of the saints,” immediately adding, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). The context of both verses (13:10 and 14:12), is that “the hour of His judgment is come” (14:7). It’s the anticipation of this that the Spirit intends to inspire the saints to enduring patience. Only a little longer, saints! For those whose very worship is sacrilege, for those who are persecuting the saints, taking them into captivity or killing them (13:10), their hour is come—they have the same to look forward to themselves; if they refuse to worship “Him that made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of waters,” instead worshipping “the beast and his image” (whatever this cryptic imagery means) what is left for them but “the wine of the wrath of God,” and “torment with fire and brimstone,” and “no rest day nor night” (14:10,11).

And so these two strong exhortations are an assurance to the saints that the hour of judgment is nigh, their patience and faithful waiting will surely be rewarded, as will the folly of all the earth. Be not partakers with them, dear saints, John is urging by the Spirit, continue faithful, though it take the utmost commitment and patient endurance to continue to obey God and keep faith in Jesus Christ without caving to what all the world has sold out to…

…Just as the three Hebrew children prevailed in their day, remaining faithful to their God, though it meant the fire for them, when all the world was worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. The three endured in the trial, in the fire, because—wonderful visitation—One was with them, reigning with them “in the midst” of it. Even so, prophesies John, it’s this enduring patience, the keeping power of His patience, that you’ll need now, saints, as never before, and in this you’ll prevail in the trial that is about to come upon all the world. This is the provision that will keep you through the trial—not by the skin of your teeth but triumphantly—the patience of Christ. Or rather, the Christ of enduring patience. Seated with Him in the heavenlies even while here upon the earth in the midst of great conflict, reigning with Him in His enduring patience, waiting expectantly for Him and with Him—this has has been your continual practice day upon day, day in and day out, and so you are ready for this great trial, confident now as always that in due time all His enemies will be subdued under His feet.

Yes, under His feet. That day surely comes, just as it came for Israel of old whom Joshua called to “come near, and put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of a good courage; for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight” (Josh. 10:24,25).

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Endnote from Robertson’s Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament

Into the love of God (eis tēn agapēn tou theou). Either subjective or objective genitive makes sense and Lightfoot pleads for both, “not only as an objective attribute of deity, but as a ruling principle in our hearts,” holding that it is “seldom possible to separate the one from the other.” Most scholars take it here as subjective, the characteristic of God.

Into the patience of Christ (eis tēn hupomonēn tou Christou). There is the same ambiguity here, though the subjective idea, the patience shown by Christ, is the one usually accepted rather than “the patient waiting for Christ” (objective genitive).

 

 

Yielding Fruit A Hundredfold

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Trusting that you, dear brother, dear sister, are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mt. 13:3-23), let me ask a question. Are you good ground? You’ll remember that the ground by the wayside brought forth no fruit of the seed that was sown. Neither did the stony ground. Neither did the ground full of choking thorns. Only the good ground brought forth “fruit unto perfection”—fully developed fruit.

But some even of the good ground did not bring forth its full potential. The good ground brought forth “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold ” (Mt. 13:8).

Why this? Why didn’t all the good ground bring forth an hundredfold? Even though it was good deep soil weed free, some brought forth only sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Why? We are not told why in so many words, but if you’ll read the parable in Matthew Chapter 13 you’ll see how consistently Jesus refers to the hearing of those who receive the seed of the Word. And in Luke’s gospel account, which mentions only the hundredfold, he records that “when He [Jesus] had said these things, He cried, he that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8:8). Do you see Jesus in that moment, deeply impassioned and crying out? The bringing forth of a hundredfold harvest apparently depends on the state of our hearing. How good is our faculty of hearing? Are we actually hearing what the living Word is sowing into our hearts?

Let us hear His words as sown by His apostle Paul. There is a key for us here; if we are hearing, we are sure of bringing forth to our joy and the joy of the Sower the hundredfold harvest. So let’s listen in on a prayer of the apostle on behalf of the saints in Philippi.

 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment [discernment]; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)

Notice this. Paul writes of their love. “This I pray, that your love…” They walked in love, their lives were characterized by love. That surely constitutes them good ground. Why then not leave it at that, Paul? But no, he prays that their love may “abound yet more and more…” In what way? “In knowledge and all discernment.” Abounding love, then, would awaken their hearts and minds to “knowledge and all discernment,” or perception; this would enable them to “approve things that are excellent.” A course of action might be good, no question. But love, abounding love, would give them the perception to see, to hear, to know what to the God of love is excellent. This would result in lives filled with fruit unto the praise and glory of God.

Abounding love, says Paul, is as it were the ear, the eye, of knowledge, greater, deeper knowledge, full knowledge, as the Greek word epignosis implies. The greater the love, the more perceptive the knowledge as to what pleases God. This reminds me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, who were “puffed up” with their knowledge. And they had a lot of knowledge; Paul at the outset of his epistle to them testified that they had been by God’s grace “enriched by Him in all utterance and all knowledge…” (1 Cor. 1:5). But as Paul continues his epistle we are sorry to find that with all their knowledge they had a kind of blindness, numbness, deafness, about them. Something was missing in their knowledge; they were really not hearing from God as they ought to be hearing. (I am in 1 Corinthians Chapter 8.) What was missing? Love. Sure, they knew that meat offered to idols was just meat like any other; that’s pretty good discernment. But what about something more excellent? Where was the sensitivity of love that would have made them feeling toward their weak brother who was really troubled by anyone eating meat offered to idols? And so Paul told them:

If anyone thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone love God, the same is known of him. (1 Cor. 8:3)

Some of our English translations capitalize the last pronoun in order to interpret this as, God knows the one who loves Him. That is certainly true. But according to Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, this can be interpreted the other way as well—the one who loves God knows God. There is a kind of knowledge that is actually love; love is a kind of knowledge, the knowledge of God, “the love of Christ that passeth (surpasseth) knowledge.” To know as we ought to know… is love; it is the one who loves God who knows God. Personally I like that interpretation, and it accords with other Scriptures in the epistles of Paul (1 Cor. 13:2,8-13; Eph. 3:18,19) as well as 1 John 4:7 (“…and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God”) along with 2 Peter 1:5-8, where Peter says that “if these things [that culminate in love] be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren [idle] nor unfruitful in the knowledge [epignosis, full knowledge] of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Back to the Philippians to enlarge a bit further on the faculty of discernment that accompanies this knowledge. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment…” The word judgment is better translated discernment or perception. The margin of my old King James Version has “sense.” In the Greek it is aisthesis, and is from the same root as “having their senses (aistheterion) exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Abounding love, then, as it opens the heart and mind to a deeper knowledge of the God who is love, hones the spiritual senses of discernment—hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching—resulting in a fine-tuned sensitivity that enables the decision and approval of what in God’s sight is excellent, that the saints might be “sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.” That sounds like a hundredfold crop to me.

Now to the Thessalonians. Paul commended the Thessalonians for their “work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope…” (1 Thes. 1:3). He writes that “when ye received the word of God which ye heard from us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thes. 2:13).

That too sounds like very good ground. The word of God they had received was bringing forth fruit—faith, love, hope. There can be nothing critical said about that, not a word. But sure enough, knowing Paul, there is something further that can be said.

 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love… (1 Thes. 3:12)

This, I begin to gather—the passion for abounding love—is Paul’s consuming desire for the saints here or elsewhere. Again he writes:

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. (1 Thes. 4:1).

But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more… (1 Thes.4:9,10)

It’s very encouraging to discover that the Thessalonians took to heart Paul’s exhortation. He writes to them later on a second time:

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth… (2 Thes. 1:3).

How precious that they had hearkened! Selah!

Abounding love, then. It is Paul’s constraining passion, an insatiable all-consuming fire in him. “Abound yet more and more… increase more and more…” Are we hearing his cry? I believe it is the key to why some ground brings forth a hundredfold, others only sixty or thirty. Are we content to bring forth only thirtyfold or sixtyfold, brother, sister? Surely that is good, and warrants not a word of criticism. But… how good, how keen, is our hearing? How great is our love? Is it increasing, growing, abounding? Intent on pleasing our dearly beloved Lord Jesus, and impassioned like Paul to know with a knowledge that only love can show us, are we hearing from Him what delights the heart of God, what is excellent in His sight, enabling us to yield to Him a hundredfold the fruit He longs for?

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Take My Yoke Upon You

I’m writing this as to an unbeliever, asking that one a question, aware also that sometimes we believers can be very unbelieving. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness when the going got rough. “They believed not in God…” (Ps. 78:22).

Here’s my question. Are you willing to take the risk of completely unburdening yourself of your cares? Isn’t your response that this would be wonderful? Away with them all… but what’s the catch? Why do you call it a risk?

For two reasons. First, I know how important your troubles are to you, as mine are to me—for they are ours, aren’t they, and who wants to risk not looking after them ourselves, who else would give them the care and attention they need? So we continue to carry them ourselves, and they pile up, and we are like the beast of burden yoked under heavy burden.

Perhaps you are saying that this is not true of you; you would do anything to be liberated from your yoke of cares, but you’ve been taught by long experience you can’t expect that. If this is your case there is good news for you; there is yet one thing you haven’t done; there is a way—but this too involves a risk.

Which leads to my second reason, and this will mean rephrasing my question. Are you ready to take the risk of discovering another yoke—one in which you may be sure your burdens are truly cared for while you yourself live care free?

Ah, you say, that’s the catch—to be free of all my burdens I must take upon me another yoke. And yokes, well, yokes themselves are something I would as soon be completely rid of.

Oh? All of them? What about this one? Hearken to Jesus’ words:

Come unto me all ye that labour and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)

Let’s go through this slowly with a listening ear, a hearing heart.

“Come unto Me…”

We are invited to come to a Person, not a formula for how to live the carefree life. “Come unto Me.” This is where it begins for those who hear these words for the first time. But—this will help some of us for whom these words are no longer new—in the Greek, come is in the present imperative tense. The implication of that tense is, continue to come, come again and again, come as often as necessary, and—“take heed how ye hear”—discover His words to be continually new.

“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden…”

Young’s Literal Translation has, “Come unto me, all ye labouring and burdened ones…” Vincent’s Word Studies comments, “the first [labouring] an active, the second [burdened] a passive participle, exhibiting the active and passive sides of human misery.” So there is an unhappy synergy at work here—our own inner labourings of heart and mind trying to cope with the problems of life (in fact the word labour is the Greek kopiaO, from which our word cope came down to us); and synergizing (working together) with our inner labourings, the burdens from without, the multitude of cares that come upon you and me, which it seems we have no say in the matter; it comes with the territory of life in this world, and nobody is exempt, all we can do is try somehow to cope with it.

Again, let us listen. Here is Jesus, moved with our miseries, calling out to us:

“Come unto Me…. and I will give you rest.”

And what is rest? We will state it in negative terms for now—what it is not—and there are negative terms aplenty. No anxiety. No worry. No fear. No torment. No frazzled nerves. No stressed-out meltdowns. No turmoil of mind… The list is long. No unrest of heart. That’s a word we hear a lot in the news these days whenever there is social upheaval somewhere in the world. Unrest. Jesus says He has, and gives, rest in the midst of unrest. That one word give. No necessity to labour for or pay for it. It’s free. “I will give you rest.”

More on rest in a moment from the positive point of view. First we must join this statement with the one following it:

“I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you…”

There, as I said, is the catch. We must understand that the rest comes only in another yoke—that is, in our being yoked with Christ. “My yoke.” But Lord Jesus, yokes are made for toil, for work, aren’t they? Are You actually saying that You have for us a yoke that is so different that it actually produces rest instead of weariness, a yoke that in fact is in itself rest? Yes, this is what He is saying, and He simply says, “Take My yoke upon you…” He presents it to us, to you and to me, and will surely put it upon us; our part, the grace of God helping us, is to bow our neck and take it upon us. “Take My yoke upon you…”

I wonder how you see that yoke. Some picture it as a single yoke with Jesus outside it guiding. Others, of whom I am one, see it as a dual yoke with Jesus the “lead ox”  beside me.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me…”

That is, from Me, not just about Me. Learn from Me, and the word learn is from the same root as disciple. So the Teacher is inviting the burdened to become discipled to Himself. Come unto Me, He says, take My yoke upon you, become My committed disciple, and learn from Me…

“For I am meek and lowly of heart…”

The lowly Son of God walked ever in rest, doing only what He saw His Father doing, speaking only what He heard Him saying. He would not take upon Himself any other burden than this, leaving all else to His Father to look after. Not for Him—the proud disposition of the seekers of self-sovereignty, who instead of being submissive to God are dismissive of Him, asserting their un-dependence, arrogating to themselves what is God’s alone… inevitably discovering to their great unrest that the liberty they sought was actually a grievous yoke under which they are burdened with what God never meant man to bear. The God of love has not left them without a way of release. How good to know with great thankfulness that One who is meek and lowly of heart, who willingly took upon Him His Father’s yoke of rest, delighting to do His will, nothing more, nothing less, calls the labouring and burdened to join Him in that same yoke.

Let’s join phrases together again:

“Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart…”

“I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Satisfaction, contentment, peace, fulfillment… Rest. The rest is in His yoke, in being discipled to Him; learning from Him His own meekness and lowliness, we find rest unto our souls.

But—You are so kind and patient, Lord—is someone still worrying, still finding it hard to let go, still asking, What about all these burdens that mean so much to me, Lord? Am I just to abandon them?

But what if, He responds, your burdens become my burdens, and My burden becomes yours, the one and only burden you are to carry? In My yoke you cannot carry any other burden. Only My own. That one burden alone, My burden, is all you are responsible to carry—yet not alone, but carry with Me. As to your burdens, I will look after them, each of them, all of them, I will carry them as though they were My own. In fact they are My own, once you have become My disciple. The burdens of My disciple become My very own. I will not let a single one of them fall to the ground. And yoked together, My disciple and I will pray together concerning each one of them—in My Father’s will—and do together what He bids us do. Be sure that in this yoke we shall accomplish together far more than you ever dreamed of.

“And ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is                    light.”

Again the rest is linked to the yoke. He promises rest—in a yoke—in complete submission to Him, the abandoned obedience of a yielded disciple willingly and fully surrendered to Him in His yoke—His yoke alone, while refusing any other. “My yoke,” He says, “My burden…” He is speaking of the yoke His Father had put upon Him, a yoke that is “easy,” in which he bears a burden that is “light.” I wonder at that: Jesus carried immense responsibility, and His burden—the glory of God—was surely heavier than any other. But no, He says, yoked with My Father the burden is light. Light because I am doing only what My Father lays upon Me to do—and actually it is My Father Himself that doeth the works. Now Jesus calls you and me to take upon us that same yoke in which the work is His, it is He Himself who is working—and we are simply doing His work with Him; yoked beside Him we are partners in His work.

We enjoy His rest. This does not mean inactivity or idleness any more than it meant for Him, but inward rest, rest unto the soul, refreshing rest, even though each one of us is very much involved in whatever the Lord Himself is doing. Now we too do simply and only what He is doing, and discover rest unto our souls in the doing of it. This, then, is a very different synergy, isn’t it—a synergy of rest.

“For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“Rest unto your souls,” He says. Because His yoke is “easy,” that is, gentle, kindly, comfortable, congenial, serviceable, helpful, “like wings to a bird,” as one has described it. And “tailor made.” Someone else’s will not do, it’s not a “one size fits all” yoke. My rancher friend Ed Parke once told me of something he had read, an account of an old timer who made yokes like that. He would place the yoke on the animal and check the fit, and wherever necessary shave it down so it fit without abrasion; it would not cause raw sores by constant rubbing. In the words of old-time Bible commentator Matthew Henry, the yoke is “chrestos, not only easy, but gracious, so the word signifies; it is sweet and pleasant, there is nothing in it to gall the yielding neck, nothing to hurt us, but on the contrary, much to refresh us. It is lined with love.”

“Nothing in it to gall the yielding neck.” I love those words, I love them; evermore put Your yoke upon me, dear Lord, I come to you, and I bow and yield my neck.

And you? Ready to take the risk now for the first time?

Or like me, persistently take it again?

Through The Channel Of Troubles

My purpose in this blog entry, which is much longer than usual, is not so much to get into the why’s and wherefore’s of the pandemic that now has its grip on our world, but to show the provision and wondrous opportunity God has given us in the midst of it.

But just briefly to start, two or three have asked my view on the present pandemic: is it a judgment of God or purely satanic, the work of the Devil? I’ve heard prophecies claiming both, but I take to heart Paul’s exhortation that, while we are not to despise prophesyings (and I don’t) we are to “prove all things,” and “hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes. 5:20,21). Therefore, not having the witness of the Spirit nor of the Scriptures as to these prophecies, I am not holding them fast, for I have not found them good. In fact I have to say I’m weary with most of what passes for prophecy these days. For one thing, did any of our popular prophets see this coming? I wonder that it is not a cause of deep embarrassment to our “prophets” that they are so “out to sea” concerning such events. Where are those like Agabus of old, who prophesied of a coming famine “throughout all the world,” which, amazingly, actually “came to pass…” (Acts 11:28).

I haven’t been graced with the gift of prophecy, so, seeking to be careful not to go beyond my measure, here is my view, guided, I believe, by the Spirit, and based on the Scriptures.

We live in a broken world, in an evil world, “this present evil world,” as the King James Version translates Paul’s introductory words to the Galatian churches. However, the word “world” here is not the usual kosmos, but aionos, which other versions translate “age.” So right at the start we have a promise. It is an evil age we live in, but it is only an age; one day this evil age will come to an end. Meanwhile we find ourselves in it—and need to be rescued from it. Here is the Galatians passage from Young’s Literal Translation:

Grace to you, and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
who did give himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of the present evil age, according to the will of God even our Father,
to whom is the glory to the ages of the ages. Amen. (Gal. 1:3-5 YLT)

The word “delivered” is actually much stronger—rescued translates it better, as the New English Translation has it: “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father…”

Now, all throughout the history of this present evil age, evils great and small have abounded. What is the cause? It all began when “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin…” (Rom. 5:12).

There, that one word sin, that is the root of the problem, and Satan certainly had a hand in that. “Sin entered into the world…” In a heavenly realm Satan himself was its originator, he exported it to Adam, who wilfully imported it; and now all those in Adam sin, the result of which is “this present evil age.” Satan and his “principalities and powers” in the heavenlies are now “the rulers of the darkness of this world [again, the word there is age]” (Eph. 6:12). What a grievous ruin it all is—that the creature God made in His own image and likeness, and who was to have dominion over His whole creation, should now be so ruled, the willing and obedient slave of sin in a domain of darkness ruled by evil angels.

But God was not finished with man, and, long story short, rescued him with the one and only Answer to the ruin of man, the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. This present evil world is the result of ignorance of that Answer, or open resistance to Him; it is man’s own attempt to continue in his sins and at the same time save himself from their consequences. It is a world that God will yet bring completely to naught, according to His promise, and I believe we are seeing a further unfolding of this before our eyes.

Now, evil diseases are one of the consequences of original sin. But setting aside the question of just exactly how the caronavirus Covid-19 arose, it is plain as day that God is working in what had now become a pandemic to shake man’s inveterate confidence in himself and his own resources. The pandemic has turned into a major shaking of our world, especially of the economies of many nations. The confidence of multitudes is being shaken severely, and the worshippers of Mammon… are our own hearts broken as God’s heart is broken by those who love and worship Mammon instead of the God who loves them?… the worshippers of Mammon, those who make Mammon their confidence, are now reeling with the aftershocks, scrambling to find something to hang on to. I see that in the news. Closer to home certain people dear to me, I wonder if I don’t hear them thinking, “What’s happening, my world isn’t what I thought it was.” Hopefully this is what many are beginning to do, rethinking a “worldview” which more or less excludes the true God; hopefully they are opening to a willingness to replace that worldview with one that not only includes but centres on Him, on the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ… whose arms are open to embrace them and whose hand is extended to rescue all who reach out to Him.

Rescued from… rescued to…

Again, setting aside the question as to the particular origin of this pandemic, here we find ourselves in the midst of it. What are we to do? What is our hope in the midst of it?

If we who already are His disciples have been rescued from this present evil age, what have we been rescued to? Paul in the Romans 5 passage shows that sin and death entering the world brought about the reign, the kingdom, of sin and death. “Death reigned… sin reigned…” (See Romans 5:11-21.)

That is the bad news—the kingdom from which we have been rescued. But there is Good News. God by His Son has brought in an entirely different kingdom of righteousness and life. This is the word that He gave us from the beginning—from the mouth of John the Baptist, from the mouth of Jesus the Christ, and from the mouth of the apostles in the Acts. Let’s trace it.

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
And saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand [is nigh]. (Mt. 3:1,2)

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel. (Mk. 1:15)

Jesus when He rose from the dead continued to speak of this kingdom to His apostles:

…To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God… (Acts 1:3)

After they received the Spirit they too continued to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom, as we discover all through The Acts:

But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Act 8:12)

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. (Acts 20:25)

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. (Act 20:38,31).

(There are many similar references in The Acts.)

So, we have been delivered from a kingdom, and delivered to a kingdom. This is the gospel that Paul and no doubt the other apostles proclaimed wherever they went. Considering our present world situation, here is a verse of particular interest. Paul and Barnabas having reached the end of their missionary journey began to retrace their steps, visiting again the churches they had established:

Confirming [establishing] the souls of the disciples, exhorting to remain in the faith, and that through many tribulations it behoveth us to enter into the reign of God… (Acts 14:22 YLT).

Note again the emphasis on the kingdom of God—with this further emphasis, that it is through many tribulations this kingdom must be, yes, entered. “Through” is the Greek dia, which Strong’s defines as “a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act.” I like that. In my mind’s eye I see a ship heading out of open water into a channel, a strait, which will take it not away from, but to its desired haven. Even so, says Paul, it is through the channel of troubles that we must sail to enter the kingdom of God. The natural inclination of the earthly man is to shrink back from troubles; perhaps that would also be the inclination of believers green behind the ears, so Paul sought to help these new disciples become established souls who would not be overthrown and draw back when imminent troubles came upon them, but rather would continue steadfast in “the faith,” for it was through those very troubles that “we must—it behoves us to, it is necessary, needful to—enter the kingdom of God.”

What is the kingdom of God?

Just what is the kingdom of God? It is the reign of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom.14:17). Back again to the Romans 5 passage: it is the reign of life (Rom. 5:17). It is the reign of grace (Rom. 5:21). Distilled to its essence it is the reign of God—and that in the midst of and through and many troubles.

And how is one introduced into the kingdom of God? Initially by repenting of that deeply ingrained insistence on sitting upon the throne of our lives ourselves, and leaving God out—that is called sin—and by believing the Gospel of the kingdom of God with a willingness to give the King of this kingdom His rightful place in our lives. We read of this King and His kingdom in the familiar and beautiful passage in Isaiah:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder… Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever (Isa. 9:6,7).

Wonderful! Good News! The government upon His shoulder!

Ah, but the truly wonderful Good News is that by His Spirit, the government upon His shoulder is within us; that very rule of God and His Christ is in our hearts! THAT is the kingdom of God, which John the Baptist announced, and the time of the inauguration of which Jesus proclaimed was fulfilled, and which the apostles after Pentecost proclaimed had arrived. They were now in that kingdom. For, by His Spirit those in Christ are “raised up together, and seated [enthroned] together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:6).

Since that is so, is there not a two-part question that arises?

The first part. Were not these disciples Paul was exhorting already in the kingdom of God? Had they not earlier heard the Gospel, repented, believed in Jesus, and received the Spirit of God? Yes they were; Jesus Himself tells us that those born of water and the Spirit “enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Also this in Paul’s words to the Colossian church. God has:

…Delivered [same word, rescued] us from the power [the authority] of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love… (Col. 1:13).

The second part. If God has done that, how then can Paul be exhorting the disciples that we must through many troubles or hardships enter the kingdom of God? What can this mean if they were already in the kingdom of God? But this is a pattern we find elsewhere in the Scriptures, and in Paul’s own life. He himself was in the kingdom of God as he went about proclaiming it. For on one occasion he warned the Corinthians that his coming to them might make some of them unhappy, for “the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20). Yet some years later as he shared with Timothy the evils that had come upon him, he assured him that “the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18). Encouraging words for you and I as well. Again, do not those who believe in Jesus have eternal life (Jn. 3:16)? Yes, they do, and yet Paul exhorted Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life…” (1 Tim. 6:12). In like manner Paul exhorted the early disciples who were in the kingdom of God to enter the kingdom of God through many troubles.

Let this be our pattern as well, who by the Spirit of God and new birth have been introduced into His kingdom. Let us “continue in the faith,” let us go through the Channel of Troubles, and what we now know by faith we shall prove more and more fully—the reality of the wondrous kingdom of God. We may, and must, through all troubles great and small, near and far, enter this kingdom, a kingdom that cannot be shaken, a kingdom that is above all as its King is above all, whether men or angels…

…Remembering always that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of priests. Let us therefore continue to come boldly to the throne of empowering grace on the behalf of those in our world around us; they deeply need to see in their midst people who like themselves are in the midst of troubles yet are not troubled, are not shaken, and enquire why that is so, and, in becoming aware of the reality of a different kingdom, may turn and enter it themselves.

Faithfulness As A Mystery Unfolds

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [mature]: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:6-8).

I wonder that they did not know. Did they not know the story of Joseph?

In the honour roll of faith the writer of Hebrews, while he does not make specific mention of Joseph’s ordeal of faith, he does make note of those who “had trial… of bonds and imprisonment” and “were tempted.” Certainly that includes Joseph. What he records specifically of Joseph is that it was by faith that he commanded the Israelites to be sure to take his bones with them to the land of promise when God delivered them from Egypt. They did this, after long delay finally laying those bones to rest “in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor…” (Josh. 24:32).

That’s quite something when you think of it. The many times they murmured and complained and doubted God in the wilderness—especially when they concluded in unbelief that entering and taking the land was impossible, utterly beyond their ability—they needed only to take a walk to wherever Joseph’s bones were being kept to remind themselves of the faithfulness of God. It was He who had brought them out. It was He who would bring them in.

When Joseph gave this commandment he knew by personal experience the faithfulness of the God in whom he had trusted when year after long year his own circumstances were more a testimony to the failure of the promises of God than of His faithfulness.

I never tire of reading the story. God had given Joseph two dreams, the first in which his brothers’ sheaves were bowing down to his sheaf. What a dream! How could he not help but share something so glorious with his brethren? They got the interpretation immediately. “Shalt thou indeed reign over us? Or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?” They already hated him because of their father’s special love for him, but now they hated him all the more “for his dreams and for his words.” Then he had a second dream which along with his brothers he told his father. “The sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” His father rebuked him. “Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” Nevertheless, “his father observed the saying.” But now his brothers added something more to their hatred. They’d begun to feel there could be something to this. So now they “envied him.”

And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt… (Acts 7:9).

Their motive was, “and we shall see what will become of his dreams” (Gen. 37:20).

We know what became of his dreams, we who have read the story, and it’s impossible to read the story without tears in your eyes. The hour came when all his brethren were bowing before him—the very thing they had conspired to prevent—just as the faithful God had shown him in the dreams.

God was with him

Let me quote more fully that verse from Acts.

And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt; but God was with him…

In Potiphar’s house, God was with him. Later in prison, God was with him. In what sense? It doesn’t appear that God ever sent someone to give Joseph a word of prophecy, or ever whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry Joseph, you’re going to end up on the throne of Egypt some day and those dreams will come true.” No, in this God was silent. Yet God was with him. As Joseph went about his daily routine as a faithful slave he was aware that a familiar Presence was still with him. What did it all mean, then? What was it all about? What about those dreams, Lord? In low times they were more a torment to him than a fond hope. But he would go to prayer, and the Presence would be with him, and with it an awareness, then, that somehow, in spite of all this that has happened—it’s all so unjust, Lord—yet, You are with me still. I don’t understand… but please help me to be faithful to You.

The psalmist gives us insight into what God did not disclose to Joseph—that one day God would send Joseph’s brethren to Egypt as well—an ordeal that for them would be utterly devastating, as it had been for Joseph—and that He was preparing Joseph in advance for that very thing:

He [God] sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant [a bondslave];
Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:
Until the time that his word came, the word of the LORD tried him (Ps. 105:17,18).

The iron fetters entered into his very soul, as the original implies. But what I find so moving is that God wanted to include in Scripture that Joseph’s feet were hurt with fetters. The tender-hearted God took note of that. How could He not? He “was with him.” As if He were saying, “I know all that you’re going through, beloved Joseph—even to the point of feeling the hurt of your feet in the fetters.”

And so through it all, the word God had given Joseph in dreams tried him, purified him. Come on, Joseph, give it all up, God has forgotten you and your dreams, and life is too short. Enjoy yourself. Instead he turned and fled. There was something more important to him than those dreams of glory. That “something” kept him when he was sorely tempted. If the dreams had vanished like a mirage in the desert, his God was still with him, and his love for his God kept him. He would not sin against his God. He remained faithful. It cost him dearly, he was framed for his faithfulness, ended up in prison. Yet even in prison he continued to serve faithfully without bitterness toward God, without resentment toward those near and far who had treated him so unjustly, and without nursing his hurt with thoughts of self pity… or of revenge. He came forth from his trials with a certain something which made God’s heart swell. Proven character. Joseph may have been laid in iron but he came forth as gold.

And the dreams?

Somewhere along the way Joseph had given them back to God for His safekeeping, and had forgotten about them. The day came when the faithful God gave the dreams back to Joseph again—fulfilled.

…And Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth…. And Joseph remembered the dreams… (Gen. 42:6,9).

Who remembered? God had never forgotten those long-ago dreams, but Joseph apparently had.

It is beautiful to see the way God with sovereign genius unfolded His faithfulness to Joseph. It is also, oh, so beautiful, that all along the way Joseph had remained faithful to God when, as far as he knew, there was nothing in it for him. He did so out of love for God. Even so with our Lord Jesus Christ. For those with eyes to see, it was in the cross that the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ shone forth—His love for the Father, His commitment to do His will come what may, a devotion that meant the cross for Him. It is a beauty beyond compare, to God a “fragrance of rest.” It is Jesus’ reflection, the beauty of the Lord, we see in Joseph’s life in the days of his captivity. Joseph sought to do God’s will, to obey Him, in all things to please Him, though it mean what those in a distant day would call taking up his cross.

Where did that lead him?

Where did it lead our Lord?

Where shall it lead you and me? May we ever remember in our own trials that whatever promises may linger unfulfilled, the faithful God is involving us in an unfolding mystery which His enemies do not understand, but which all too often we ourselves do not understand. In such times let us abide faithful. While the mystery unfolds, God is seeking to cultivate unto Himself the beauty of the Lord in our lives—trusting obedience to His will, endurance, patience, meekness, faith, all the while learning from the lowly Jesus the yoke of His rest… God has not forgotten the promises, nor ever will. And so, however contrary to the promises of God our circumstances may seem to be, let us seek to please Him in all things, and take up our own cross, whatever that may involve for you or for me. It is by that very cross that the faithful God means to fulfill the promises He has given, and prepare us for the glory that is to come.

It was by way of the prison in Egypt that the unjustly treated and falsely accused slave Joseph came to the throne. It was by way of the cross of Golgotha that the unjustly treated and falsely accused bondslave Jesus came to the throne, the very thing the princes of this world had conspired to prevent.

May we ever be mindful of this mystery of the cross—which God has ordained, yes, unto our glory—and continue faithful to Him who is faithful. We may safely commit to Him the “dreams” He has given us. He will not forget them. Meanwhile He is lovingly working in our lives, and anticipates something precious coming forth.

Love Not The World

Here is a passage of Scripture I put on Facebook on Super Bowl Sunday, making no further comment because I intended to do so later in a blog entry.

To whom it may concern:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust thereof, but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Here now is that blog entry.

First, how is “the world” to be defined?

John spells it out plainly enough; can we make it even more simple? It is what “the world” loves—the world of those who know not God—that is “the world.”

Now let me cut to the chase. If the Super Bowl is not “the world” I have no idea what “the world” is. Something like 170 million TV viewers and live streamers watched the Super Bowl (but compare that with the 3.5 billion who watched the Word Cup last year). My point is that the Super Bowl was a great table spread for the lust of the flesh and of the eyes and the pride of this life, and multitudes sat down for the feed. Does it not, then, number among those things that the apostle John has in mind when he calls disciples of Christ to not love the world?

I have no idea how much money was involved in this; I make no mention of the kind of money the players make; I need not labour that to any sensitive conscience that knows Christ’s teaching on the service of God and Mammon. I did see that advertisers paid $5.6 million for a 30-second Super Bowl ad. Bookies and gamblers made and lost fortunes on the game. Apart from the game itself, one Christian social media commenter called the half-time presentation “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show” and shut his TV off. (Then why even take in the game, I ask?) Another, a woman with growing daughters, commented, “No wonder the Moslems hate us.”

Those “of the world,” of course, will do what they will do, and God will judge them for it. What concerns me is that the Church of God which He has sanctified out of the world must have nothing to do with the things that those in the world pursue—and we ought to be judging ourselves concerning these things lest we be condemned with the world. Yet in many churches this does not seem to be taking place. I am aware that both in Canada and the United States many genuine brothers and sisters in Christ sat down to their own feastings and watch parties. Can we not see how discordant it is for disciples of the cross of Jesus Christ to be involved in something like that? I ask the question sorrowing, very aware that many apparently do not see it. Why the blindness?

Beloved, we are going to have to go further than this if we are going to see the testimony of Jesus Christ shining forth in our churches. We are to be characterized by the love of the Father, not the love of the world.

I think often of the Great Awakening in Wales in 1904-06. Wales too was a country preoccupied with football, but in the days of that awakening they could not scrape up enough men to form a football team; no one was interested in sports. Drama troupes were advised that to tour Wales would mean financial ruin; no one was interested in entertainment. They were all consumed with an incomparable love. We still sing about it, don’t we. The love song of the revival. But is that all it is to us—a moving song that evokes in us a wistful yearning?

Or… are we doing the will of God?

That’s what John brings this down to. The world with its desires is passing away, and with it those who pursue those desires. It is the one who does the will of God who abides forever—even though that will lead him or her in the way of fellowship with One whose love for the Father’s will was revealed “on the mount of crucifixion.”

That One “shall never be forgotten throughout Heaven’s eternal days.”

Am I coming across the way I hope? It is with regard to our love that we need so deep, so deep, a heart searching. What will it be, beloved? The love of the world? Or the will of God. The love of the world? Or the Father’s love—and the cross that comes our way in a world at perpetual enmity with Him. That is what doing His will inevitably brings upon us.

Tempted To Care?

Facebook Friends of Biblebase host Ron Bailey posted this a few days ago:

“Enter not into the path of the wicked,
And walk not in the way of evil men. Avoid it,
pass not by it;
Turn from it,
and pass on.”(Prov. 4:14–15 ASV)

“Yield not to temptation
For yielding is sin…”

Verses from Proverbs, lines from an old hymn, these complementing each other. Do you make the connection? There is a difference between temptation and entering into temptation. To come across the pathway of the wicked and feel an attraction is not sin; to turn into that pathway is a different matter. It is not sin to be tempted. It is sin to enter into temptation.

Later that same day I came across something in F.B. Meyer’s devotional Our Daily Homily. He was talking about Jesus’ parable of the types of ground that receive seed, enlarging particularly on the thorny ground. This is what he said:

“And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mk. 4:19).

There is enough nutriment in the land for the thorns alone or for the wheat alone, but not for both; and so there is a brief struggle for mastery, in which the sturdy weed prevails against the slender wheat, and chokes it. Nourishment which should go to its support is drained away from it; and though it does not actually expire, it leads a struggling existence, and becomes unfruitful. What are these weeds? For the poor man—Cares: The Greek word for care is Division. Cares divide our heart, and distract it in many different directions…. What shall the poor man do to prevent the Word from becoming unfruitful? He must take his cares to his Father, and by one act deposit them in His safe-keeping.

And thereafter, as a care tries to break in on the peace of his heart, he must treat it as a positive temptation, handing it over to God.

Positive—he means no doubt about it, this is a temptation disguised as a responsibility.

That arrested me, particularly because of the earlier reading on Friends of Biblebase.

The deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things are more easily recognized as temptations to be resisted. What about the cares of this world? “What shall the poor man do to prevent the Word from becoming unfruitful?”

“He must take his cares to his Father, and by one act deposit them in His safe-keeping.”

That is a reference to a passage in 1 Peter:

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1Pe 5:6,7 KJV)

Various commentators and other translations show that the more accurate translation of verse 7 is, “Having cast [once for all the whole of your care] upon Him, for He careth for you (1 Pt. 5:6,7).

Peter is saying that this is to be something done once, and once-for-all. The idea is of unburdening ourselves and loading on Him the whole of our cares—once-for-all. Any attempt of any care to re-impose itself upon us must be recognized for what it is—a temptation. A temptation which is not to be entered into, but resisted, put in its place.

It’s very interesting and comforting that the word “careth” in “He careth for you” is a verb from the same root as the noun “care” used earlier in the sentence—having cast all your care on Him—where it means, anxious care, care that divides and distracts the heart. If, then, we take that same meaning forward into the phrase “He careth for you,” construing it positively now, we understand our dear Lord is, well, not really “distracted” with our care, but totally concerned and preoccupied with it, giving it His undivided attention, considering it His own, and therefore His own responsibility. There is no way He is going to neglect it or let it fall to the ground.

So let us lay it to heart. Let us recognize care for what it is—a thorny weed determined to choke out the growing Word of God in our lives. Let us not yield to the temptation to give it room. Let us not solace it once again, nor feed on it, worrying it as a dog a bone. Let us not converse with it in our minds, let us not give it the time of day. Let us not enter into temptation. Let us resist it. It is in safe caring hands. Let us, then, be encouraged to continue care-less!

His Song I Sing

I love to sing, but I sing less often these days because my voice is kind of crackly now. Nevertheless I am always inwardly singing, and now, apparently, quite often am humming, or so I’m told. (It looks like that spring in my heart must surface one way or another.) So I’m told I’m often overheard humming a tune, something recognizable only by the birds of my feather, for I know I’m never humming the familiar music of this world. I don’t hum or sing that music. Not that it’s a rule I keep religiously; I just don’t want to; it isn’t in my heart anymore, hasn’t been for a long time.

It’s because of the old saying:

Whose bread you eat, his song you sing.

That’s what’s in my heart—the song of the Bread of God who came down from heaven to give life to the world.

For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (Jn. 6:33 NKJV).

The world’s bread left me empty; how can I sing its song? Its song left me empty too. Now I eat the Bread of God, it satisfies my deepest hunger. How, then, can I help but sing His song? Recently I had one stuck in my heart after hearing in a dream someone singing, oh such a beautiful melody, but, oh, how vexing: I could not identify the singer, nor the lyrics! So I approached one standing by, a stranger to me, and asked him if he knew the song. But somehow he hadn’t heard it being sung, so, anxiously hoping he would know it, I began humming it for him. To no avail. He couldn’t help me. I was so disappointed. After I awoke, the song kept replaying within me. It was only later in the day that I suddenly recognized it, and instantly knew it had to have been my friend Steven singing in my dream his favourite psalm from the Psalter, Psalm 84.

O Lord of Hosts, how lovely Thy tabernacles are;
For them my heart is yearning In banishment afar.
My soul is longing, fainting, Thy sacred courts to see;
My heart and flesh are crying, O living God, for Thee.

So… that’s what is ever with me—the Lord’s song. In the daytime. In the nighttime. It may be a psalm, or a hymn, or one of the many songs in my years-long memory bank that I loved to sing when gathering together with others unto the Lord.

He came down from heaven to give life to the world. Very fittingly He was born in Bethlehem, “House of bread.” Insignificant Bethlehem, though “little among the thousands of Judah,” had upon it the eye of a God who loves the lowly. He had destined that “out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2 ASV). “Unto Me,” God assured. This ruler born in Bethlehem would be God’s own divinely ordained and anointed king who would never abdicate or be deposed, one to whom all peoples, beginning with the people of Israel, were to bow the knee. His birth would fulfill great hope in those who longed to see this Ruler and give Him from the heart His rightful allegiance; it would also fulfill great fear in those who above all else did not want to see this One come forth and reign. One of them, inspired by His Enemy, sought to do away with Him in His infancy but failed; others in the service of that same Enemy ultimately conspired to have Him crucified. They succeeded in that but failed in their purpose; to their everlasting confusion all they did was establish His throne. He reigns even yet. I for one came to a time in my life when I humbled myself and bowed my knees to Him. I still remember the moment. What happened then is best related in the words of my old friend, George Herbert (another of whose poems inspired the title of this weblog):

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

That is just what I did. I humbled myself, and accepted His loving invitation. I sat down at His table, and did eat—He Himself serving me.

He Himself serving me? Where are the words…

Broken Bread for a broken man

I needed to be broken before I was willing to receive this Bread. The Bread Himself needed to be broken before I could take Him in. Before being broken, that Bread remained outside of me. But now this Bread has been broken, and has come to me in a Form I am able to take in: now by His Spirit this Bread is within me. I needed only to open my heart; now this Bread is in my heart sustaining me daily; it is “bread that strengthens man’s heart” for whatever a day may bring (Ps. 104:15).

What Wonder-bread is this! Where I live people can buy bread with the brand name Wonderbread. It’s good bread, and will keep your physical body going for a while. But that’s all it can do. Man, in order to live, needs other bread than that. “I am,” says Jesus, “the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35). He says further:

I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. If anyone eat this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51 NKJV).

Live forever? It is the bread of eternal life, then. But, in fact, He said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have not life in you” (Jn. 6:53).

You have not life in you? It is the most serious statement of Scripture that no human being has Life in him or her apart from ingesting the living Bread, the Bread of life. Those who have eaten this Bread have life in them, eternal life, and therefore even while in mortal flesh have this promise:

Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:54).

Wondrous and sure hope!

And so, as one who has taken and eaten this Bread, and continues to do so daily, I exhort you, dear reader, oh, if you have not done so, please, lay this to heart.

You have no Life in you except you eat this Bread. Eat this Bread, and live.

Eat this Bread, and you will soon be singing His song.

Please join me now in singing one of my favourite hymns—or hum along if you like—and I pray that, just as this hymn has become so meaningful to me, it will also become so to you, because you, along with me, no longer hold allegiance with those who feared when “the hopes and fears of all the years” were met of old in Bethlehem.

Alden, will you please lead for us?

…Here also, for those who would like to listen in, is the song I heard in my dream:

A Colony Of Heaven

A rare thing for me—let’s talk politics. I live in Alberta, one of Canada’s western provinces. Policies of the federal Liberal government have left many in these resource-rich provinces with empty purses. They made their feelings known in our October 21 federal election, which saw “the enemy,” Justin Trudeau and his Liberals, re-elected, albeit this time not with a majority government but with a minority, because the western provinces voted Conservative en masse. Now in Alberta a movement to part ways with eastern Canada is gaining angry momentum. Wexit, they’re dubbing it—West Exit—after the fashion of Brexit, Britain’s movement to leave the European Union. That’s not the whole picture; in Quebec the separatist Bloc Quebecois, roundly defeated in 2011 and considered history, lo and behold is up and running again. My country is deeply divided, I should say tri-vided.

I love Canada; I love Alberta, and it grieves my heart to see things come to this. I’ve been listening in to what’s being said, and dwelling on it a lot. Too much. Which is why I want to talk politics.

Heaven’s politics. A verse from Philippians has been coming to mind: “For our conversation is in heaven…” That’s the old King James Version, which uses “conversation” for “conduct, behaviour.” The New King James Version has this:

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… (Phil. 3:20 NKJV)

Why the word citizenship? As I thought on that, something I’d read many years ago kept resurfacing: “We are a colony of heaven.” I couldn’t recall where I’d read it. Google found it for me in the 2017 Passion Translation:

But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ…

But that couldn’t be what I was looking for; I’d read it long before the publication of that translation (it’s to the far left of a paraphrase, actually). Eventually I found it in James Moffatt’s translation which was first published in 1922:

But we are a colony of heaven, and we wait for the Saviour who comes from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ… (James Moffatt, A New Translation,1922)

“Our citizenship is in heaven” is the more accurate translation but Paul was writing to the church in Philippi, and he knew his readers would “get” what he was saying. Philippi was a Roman colony, which meant its residents were actually citizens of Rome.

And from thence [we sailed] to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony… (Acts 16:12).

I remember when I was a boy my dad saying that Victoria, British Columbia, was “a little bit of England.” To be in Victoria (named after a great 19th century queen of the British Empire) was to be as it were in England. In that sense it was a “colony of England.” In fact the daily newspaper (of which my dad’s brother Seth Halton was for many years editor) was called the Victoria Daily Colonist. One could go to the Empress Hotel in Victoria and have “high tea,” as close as you could get without the actual presence of our present Queen Elizabeth. (Google tells me you can still do that.)

Philippi was one of several colonies in the Roman Empire. Colonies were originally Roman outposts established to secure conquered territories. “Eventually, however, the term came to denote the highest status of a Roman city” (Wikipedia). “The idea of a colony was, that it was another Rome transferred to the soil of another country” (Vincent’s Word Studies). Inhabitants had the privilege of Roman citizenship, which meant “exemption from scourging, freedom from arrest, except in extreme cases, and, in all cases, the right of appeal from the magistrate to the emperor” (Vincent). The inhabitants spoke Latin and were subject to Roman law. The coinage had Latin inscriptions.

Philippi, then, was a miniature Rome. Its citizens, although in distant Macedonia, were citizens of Rome.

The word translated “citizenship” or “colony” is the Greek politeuma, a noun. It’s interesting that earlier in his epistle Paul used the verb form politeuomai when he urged the saints in Philippi, “Only let your conversation [interaction, conduct, citizenship] be as becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” (Phil. 1:27). In fact Robertson’s Word Pictures suggests that the better translation here would be, “only do ye live as citizens…” Politeuomai is found in only one other place in the New Testament, Acts 23:1, where it is translated “lived.” The more common word for “conversation, conduct” is anastrophe, which is used 13 times in the New Testament. So, in selecting politeuomai here, it’s very suggestive that Paul has in mind that, whereas the saints in Philippi were in distant earth, they were citizens of heaven.

Although of Hebrew lineage, Paul himself was a Roman, but not because his hometown Tarsus was a Roman colony. Someone in an earlier generation (his grandfather or great grandfather?) had become a Roman citizen. This is why when Paul was about to be stretched out for a scourging, he said to the centurion, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?” (Acts 22:25). The centurion in charge of the scourging immediately reported this to his commander. “Take heed what thou doest, for this man is a Roman.” The commander instantly came and queried Paul personally. “Art thou a Roman?” Paul confirmed that he was. The commander responded, “With a great sum obtained I this freedom.” The word he used is politeia, citizenship. “And Paul said, But I was free born.” Upon this they backed away from him as though he had the plague—or should I say as though he were the Roman emperor himself.

So Paul reminds the Philippians, “our citizenship—our politeuma—is in heaven.” I think I see the root there from which we get our word politics, although I doubt that “our politics is in heaven” would qualify as good exegesis. But if our citizenship is there, our politics is certainly there also. In any case, when we read that verse in context we discover that Paul is brokenhearted because of those whose walk made them “enemies of the cross of Christ.” How so? How were they enemies of the cross of Christ? They “mind earthly things.” It is upon this that Paul says, “For, our citizenship is in heaven…”

That’s quite something, isn’t it. Just as the residents of Philippi were citizens of Rome, the saints there were citizens of heaven.

The psalmist foresaw this long ago. He spoke of Rahab and Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia… cities and regions of the Gentiles, and then with those in mind he said, speaking now of the glorious city of God, “This man was born there” (Ps. 87:3). They lived in Babylon, or Tyre, or wherever. But they were on the census rolls of the heavenly register as citizens there, having been born there:

And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her, and the Highest Himself shall establish her.
The LORD shall count, when He writeth up the peoples, that this man was born there.

What is this but the wondrous Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has made born-again—that is, born-from-above—disciples of Christ from all nations citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem!

Yes, of course I seek to be a good citizen of Canada. True disciples of Jesus in whatever country they are sojourning have always sought to be good citizens, obeying the laws of that country—except when those laws violate the law of their heavenly country. That must always be first and foremost.

So I want to lay to heart what Paul is saying. I don’t want to be minding earthly things, but heavenly things; I want to be a good citizen of heaven my home and native land, obeying its law, enjoying its liberty from sin and death, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, loving Him and those around me, speaking always with grace the salt-seasoned language of heaven, drinking always from its springs, feeding ever on its bread, bearing its arms against evil, shining forth its light in the darkness of this world, a citizen of heaven devoted to the Lord of heaven, with single-eyed allegiance waiting, waiting, waiting expectantly and confidently for Him… and as I wait, always rendering unto Him the living coinage of His own image and superscription, in all things conducting myself here on earth in the little colony of heaven of which I am a part—a local church—in such a way that “a little bit of heaven” is brought nigh right here where I live in Canada.

This is my way, O Canada, of standing on guard for thee.

On The Resurrection Side Of Death

Someday you and I who are believers in Jesus will be on the resurrection side of death.

That is a wondrous hope, isn’t it, we rejoice in this hope.

But wait a minute. What is wrong with this statement? Yes, I know, nothing, really. So let’s rephrase the question. What is this statement missing?

Surely it is that the word “someday” is short of the mark. For, while this is a future certainty, to faith it is also a present reality. This is how F.B. Meyer meant it in Our Daily Homily for Joshua 1:3.

Reckon that thou art on the resurrection side of death.

That is, now.

Meyer is drawing a parallel between the Israelites’ traverse of Jordan and entrance into the land of their inheritance, and the Christians’ entrance into their inheritance in the risen Saviour, the Lord Jehoshua the Christ.

Meyer is using the word reckon because he is thinking biblically; he has in mind Paul’s words in Romans 6:11.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reckon is an accounting term. One can only reckon something to be true because that something is true, is a fact. The fact here is that since Christ died unto sin and lives unto God, those baptized (immersed) into Him are also dead unto sin and alive unto God. It is with his earlier statement in mind that Paul says this. A few verses earlier he has said:

Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Therefore we were buried with him by the baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3,4)

This baptism is considered by many to be water baptism, but water has no power to make this kind of transformation; only the Spirit baptism can do so. Baptism in Holy Spirit is baptism into Christ.

It is this baptism that was represented by the Jordan baptism that became the way of entrance for Joshua and those with him into the promised land. If you recall the story, twelve stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel were set up on the Canaan side of Jordan, and twelve stones were set in the midst of Jordan; they were “buried” with Joshua in that Jordan baptism, and, we are told, “are there to this day” (Josh 4:9).

The twelve stones that were set up on the Canaan side—how profound it is that God put into the heart of Joshua to enact the shadow of a spiritual reality that would be fulfilled some 1,500 years later by another Joshua, our Lord Jesus Christ, and those with Him on the resurrection side of death, where even now we who are baptized into Him stand by faith.

…Buried with Him in the baptism, wherein also ye were risen with Him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead (Col. 2:12).

At his homily on Joshua 4:20 Meyer says this:

How those old stones would have cried out, if Israel had gone back over the Jordan! And does not Christ’s empty grave protest against our living amid the pleasures and cares of the world from which He has gone, and going, has taken us also?

I love that. It reminds me what Paul says further along in Colossians.

Wherefore if ye died with Christ… (2:20)

If ye then were raised with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.
Mind the things above, not on things upon the earth.
For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth… (3:1-5).

There again is that wondrous future hope. “…Then shall ye also…”

…And also the present reality we are called to prove and enjoy even now.

Let us not go back over Jordan, brothers and sisters. To our shame we’d have to go through a tomb to do so, a tomb that is empty!

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