The Lamb Is My Shepherd

In the following devotional the personal pronoun “I” has been used. Dear reader, if you are one of the sheep of His pasture, you are invited to take this “I” unto yourself. If you are not one of the sheep of His pasture, oh, become one!

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 I have a loving Shepherd of my soul, who, when I had gotten myself very lost (as all we of Adam’s race do) went as far as a hill called Calvary to find me in a valley called Sin and Death.

My Shepherd had to die to come to me where I was—dead in trespasses and sins.

Then, the God of peace brought again from the dead that great Shepherd of the sheep—my Lord Jesus Christ—in the blood of an everlasting covenant.

When He arose He brought me up with Him: He took me up in His arms and carried me in His bosom, and brought me out from that desolate valley into a green pasture called Resurrection Life, a high mountain pasture where, as the Lamb in the midst of the throne of God, He continues to shepherd me, by His Spirit leading me daily to fountains of living waters. I thirst no more. I hunger no more. I walk with Him daily in newness of life—His life. The blazing sun does not beat down upon me, nor any heat, for He who sits on the Throne has spread the shady Tabernacle of Himself over me.

This Lamb who gave Himself for me is my shepherd, the overseer of my soul. He watches over me daily, keeping me, protecting me from marauding lions and bears. He causes me to lie down in His green pastures of living truth. He leads me beside the waters of rest. Daily He restores my soul, provisioning me afresh with all I need to do His will, working in me what is wellpleasing in His sight.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His own Names’ sake.  Leads me, I say. For He Himself is ever with me. Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death with evil about me on every hand, I fear no evil. For, now I am no longer a subject under the shadow, the domain, of King Death. My Lamb-Shepherd has redeemed me from that king, and now, just as the children of Israel lived securely “under the shadow” of their kings, I live under the shadow of the Anointed King Jesus, the breath of my nostrils, whose shadow is the reign of grace, of righteousness and peace, of life and light and liberty.

And so we walk together, my Shepherd and I, He leading, and I following, in the Pathway He has chosen for us through the valley of the shadow of death. No longer a resident here, I am just passing through.

My Shepherd King is with me. So I fear no evil. He has a rod and a staff, and they comfort me—the rod to deal with my enemies, or to correct me when I need it myself, and a staff that sustains me, holds me up.

He prepares a table before me in the very presence of my enemies, who, though they continue to roar and threaten, can no longer torment me with fear.

The head of my Shepherd-king is anointed with oil, and that oil flows down upon my head, making me a king too.

It is all too, too much. His cup, my cup, runs over.

My Shepherd the Lamb of God went as far as Calvary and the grave to seek out and find this lamb. What comfort—to continue to lean on Him and trust Him daily in every circumstance great or small. He—my Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd and Bishop of my soul, “has come into my circumstances with divine and tender love, making Himself acquainted with all the little details of my life; and He has brought me, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in endless life, into His own magnificent circumstances, where I enjoy the light of His countenance… where I am the delight of His heart.” (J.B. Stoney)

Now, instead of my enemies pursuing me relentlessly every day, His goodness and His mercy pursue me all the days of my life.

I shall be dwelling in the House of my Shepherd forever. I know and trust that as I do so, God will, in His time, wipe away each and every tear from my eyes.

(Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:20,21; 1 Peter 2:25; Revelation 7:15-17; Lamentations 4:20)

 

 

 

 

 

Present Truth

The apostle Peter in his second epistle commends those to whom he was writing, acknowledging that they already knew the things he was writing about, and were “established in the present truth” (1:12). Even so, he wanted them to be able to have these things—this present truth—in remembrance. Thus, and very thankfully, we have his two epistles.

What is present truth? Perhaps we ourselves need to be reminded lest what was once truth present with us is now only a distant past we have forgotten. Or, perhaps we have put off into the future what is already present truth, and is therefore to be embraced by faith, and walked in now.

Peter has much on his heart this matter of spiritual memory, aware that living truth must be spiritually maintained, continually refreshed to the mind. And so he writes to “put you always in remembrance of these things” (2 Pt. 2:12). He writes to “stir you up by putting you in remembrance” (1:13). He is aware that very shortly he is about to put off his tabernacle for a permanent dwelling place, and wants those among whom he ministered “to have these things in remembrance” (1:15) after he is gone. In Chapter 3 he uses the same words as in 1:13, saying that in both of his epistles his intention has been to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (2 Pt. 3:1).

And so in his second epistle he lays out for his readers how the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is supplied to them. It involves an ever-increasing growth in spiritual virtues beginning with faith—mark that: beginning with faith—and culminating in love, all of which will involve them, he says, “in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is just after this that Peter writes the words we’re focusing on:

Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.

(Do you catch in this the fragrance of the great humility of this great man? “You’re already well established in these things; I’m just refreshing what you already know.”)

Present here is a Greek word which transliterated is parousei. It is an adjective, a qualifier. What kind of truth? Present truth. The Strong’s definition is “to be near, at hand.” That is, present.

The same word stem is found a little further on when Peter speaks of “the power and coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pt. 1:16). Strong’s defines parousia as “a being near, that is, advent.” In the King James Version it is translated coming, or presence. In 2 Pt. 3:4 and 3:12, and in several other places in our New Testament, it refers to Christ’s second coming. But the word is also used of the coming of disciples who had not formerly been present, and had now arrived (1 Cor. 16:17, 2 Cor. 7:6). It also means simply presence. “His bodily presence is weak” (2 Cor. 10:10).

Present truth is truth that has arrived and is now here.

Vincent’s Word Studies points out that the phrase in 2 Peter 1:12 is also found in Colossians where Paul thanks God for their faith and love, and also “for the hope that is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which is come unto you…” (Col 1:6). Or, as Vincent has it, “is present unto you. Has come, and is present.” Come is the Greek parantos, which has the same word stem as parousei in 2 Pt. 1:12.

So there it is. What is present truth? The word of the truth of the Gospel.

There was a time when this truth of the Gospel was not present. It was prophesied of by prophets who longed to see, but did not, “the things that are now reported unto you…” (1 Pt. 1:10-12). It was “kept secret since the world began, but is now made manifest…” (Rom. 16:25). It was “hid in God” (Eph. 3:9)—the Good News of a very great salvation that would embrace both Jews and Gentiles in “the mystery of Christ which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed…” (Eph. 3:4,5).

That is present truth—the now of the wondrous Gospel of Christ.

With this in mind, let’s look at another place where the word present appears in Peter’s second epistle, and we have already alluded to it. It’s back in verse 9, where Peter has said, “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (2 Pt 1:9). According to Vincent’s Word Studies again, he “that lacketh these things” is he to whom these things are not present.” Present is the Greek parestin, which has the same word stem as the adjective in verse 12.

And so, the present truth for which Peter commended his readers is not present with the one who has forgotten the purifying from his old, his former sins. There is a lingering darkness in the conscience, the result of which is the stunted development of all the beautiful graces Peter mentioned. The one with whom these things are not present is blind and short-sighted—and forgetful. He has forgotten the foundational truth of the Gospel—that he was “purged from his old sins.”

Peter, tender and loving shepherd that he is, is doing some reminding here; this has been the object of his epistle. He is calling the flock of God, those who have obtained the same precious faith he himself had obtained, to remember that their sins are not with them anymore; they are old history.

When did this happen? It was the work of Christ at Calvary, who:

…When He had by Himself purged our sins sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Heb. 1:3).

How, then, was this wondrous work of Calvary effected in the lives of those Peter wrote to? It was simply, or shall I say purely, because they had “received like precious faith with us through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pt. 1:1).

Peter in his first epistle marks this same truth concerning Christ and those who receive and believe Him:

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness, by whose stripe ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but have now returned unto the Shepherd and bishop of your souls (1 Pt. 2:24,25).

Note the before/after in these verses.  Note the now. You were as sheep going astray. Now you have returned unto the Shepherd and bishop of your souls. You were once sick with the mortal sickness of sin. He Himself in His own body bore the stripe that slew, and healed, that sickness. The result is that now you are dead to sins. That is present truth. Now you live unto righteousness. That is present truth.

That is the Gospel, and when received, when believed… God imparts to the believing ones His Spirit bearing witness to Christ and His completed Calvary work, thus purifying their hearts by faith (those are Peter’s words in Acts 15:8,9). And, hearts now no longer in darkness, hearts now wide open to the healing rays of the Sun of righteousness, begin to bring forth unto God the beautiful fruit of the Gospel.

It is tragic when the wondrous present truth of the Gospel has been forgotten, even more tragic when it is entirely relegated to the future, and the saints are taught that they can never be completely purged, cleansed, of sin as long as we poor mortals continue to dwell in houses of clay. No. That is not so. This cleansing is for here and now. One who believes the Gospel does not await Heaven for this cleansing, nor even a mighty move of the Spirit in the future—although we anticipate such things and know that many in darkness shall yet be brought into the present truth. Even so, for those who now believe, it is present truth now. It is present truth to be embraced by faith, and walked in… and built upon, and enlarged, and added to, from faith to virtue to knowledge to temperance to patience to godliness to brotherly kindness to love. It is present truth that means growing and abundant fruitfulness, and the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

 

Silence In Heaven

A friend shared with me earlier today that she and her husband in a time of prayer together received an assurance that God was attending to a certain much-prayed, yet still unanswered, prayer.

The word she used—attending—took hold of me, and a line from a prayer in the Psalms came on my heart:

Hear my cry, O LORD, attend unto my prayer; from the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee when my heart is overwhelmed… (Ps. 61:1,2).

It’s a cry to God to attend, to give His attention, to that prayer.

Later, I thought upon a passage in The Revelation that I often dwell on:

And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

Silence in Heaven? What is this about? What is happening during this time of silence in Heaven? Let’s read further:

And I saw the seven angels which stood before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand (Rev. 8: 1-4).

What is happening during the silence in Heaven? We see first of all that in this time of silence the seven angels who stand before God are handed seven trumpets. They are not sounding their trumpets just yet; they are just receiving them.

Then we discover that during this time of silence in Heaven it appears that the saints in the earth are offering up their prayers, and an angel is intermingling “much incense” with the prayers of the saints “upon the golden altar which was before the throne.”

Let’s drop back down into the earth for a minute. Here are the beloved saints of the Lord offering up their earnest prayers… and wondering, wondering, why the Silence? And it has been the heart cry of the saints of all ages to understand the silence of Heaven. Why, Lord, are you silent? Why do you not answer our prayers?

Unto Thee will I cry, O LORD my Rock; be not silent to me, lest, if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit…”

Keep not silence, O LORD, be not far from me…

How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? Forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?

O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt Thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.

The cries go up to The Silence. Is God angry against the prayer of His people?  Never!  He has commissioned an angel who is given “much incense” to offer with the prayers of the saints. Where did the angel get this special incense? Where else but from the apothecary of God? For God Himself is burdened with the burdens of His people far, far more than we comprehend. And He has ordained that heavenly incense be added to our prayers—His way of saying Amen to our cries… His way of crying with us! His way of assuring us that our burden is His own burden!

Let us never fail, in the silences of God, to read His heart aright. Let us never interpret the silence of Heaven as a message that our loving God is careless about the prayers of His saints—the seekers, the humble, the broken, the destitute.

He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer (Ps. 102:17).

…Oh, far from not despising it, just before I began to write this something happened to me (and it seems I am to include it here, but I know I can’t adequately describe it). I unexpectedly felt pierced—yes, that’s the word I must use—pierced to the heart, and overwhelmed, with an awareness of God’s great great love and concern for my concerns—the darkness of the hour, the overwhelming needs on every front, yet God seeming so silent. I was pierced by the awareness of His love so great, so deep: it’s impossible that He could not be concerned. Oh, how it grieves me, that I seem to know so little the God of love!

Oh, let me never misinterpret the silence of Heaven. It is a very pregnant silence. Something very momentous and very powerful is about to burst forth. Seven angels are given seven trumpets, and stand in expectant waiting. At the same time, another angel having a golden censer stands before the golden altar before the throne of God, and continually adds his incense to the prayers of the saints.

And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.

Now something else happens. Now comes the response:

And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

The same censer full of incense intermingled with the prayers of the saints is suddenly cast into the earth! And there are voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

No silence now!

Notice the storm elements—thunder, lightning. The voices of Heaven…

Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him,   and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him” (Ps. 50.3).

A great eternal Storm is about to break forth!

And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

No silence now!

How long will our God be inattentive to the prayers of His people? He never has been. Not for an instant. The half-hour silence in Heaven is a time of great preparation; the angels with the trumpets are preparing themselves. And oh, we feel the growing pressure of the word God has been preparing, preparing, preparing…

And we know that the hour of its mighty release is at hand!

The LORD shall roar out of Zion, and utter His Voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shall shake…” (Joel 2.16).

The silence in heaven precedes the silence there is going to be in the earth when the Lord God Almighty speaks from His throne!

But the LORD is in His Holy Temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him (Hab. 2:20).

Beloved of the Lord in great trial, at the end of your earthly resources with heart overwhelmed, let us never take the silence of Heaven to mean that our loving God does not hear, does not care.

He hears, oh, He hears, and cares, and is giving my prayers, and yours, His loving attention!

The Known Land

I can’t remember if this gem was passed along to me by the hand of another or if I came across it myself in my Bible reading, but in any case I wrote it down in my notes, and came across it again today, and it is too beautiful to keep to myself. (And regardless how I came across it I certainly know where it originated.)

Here is what I wrote down:

          The promised land becomes the known land.

“…Them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised” (Num. 14:31).

That to me is a telling illustration of the kind of knowledge we have in the new covenant. God’s new covenant promise is that “they shall all know Me,” and He means this in much the same way He meant it when He promised that the new generation would “know the land.” Back then, this meant that God brought them into the land, and they walked in the length and breadth of it, and searched it out, and dwelt therein, and enjoyed its bounty and riches. Thus the promised land became the known land.

That is just what it means to enter our spiritual heritage in the heavenlies in Christ. It means knowing God Himself in just this way—abiding in Him, living in Him, walking in Him, searching out (not just mapping out) His unsearchable riches in Christ.

Yes, searching out. Knowing the land. Coming to know the breadth and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.

The apostle John wrote, “everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”

That is new covenant knowledge. That is new creation knowledge. The kind of knowledge that makes us like Him.

Lie not one to another seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge [Gk. unto full knowledge] after the image of Him that created him (Col. 3:9,10).

What wondrous knowledge is this– new creation knowledge: it is the kind of knowledge that makes us like Him, more and more like Him, in all we say and do.

God gave the patriarchs and their progeny a promise back then—the promise of a land. And He was faithful to cause them to know that land. In the fullness of time He gave a further promise—that those in new covenant relationship with Him would know Him, each one of them, from the least to the greatest. He is faithful to His promise yet.

The apostle John wrote, “This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 Jn. 2:25).

And what is eternal life?

This is life eternal,” Jesus prayed, “that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3).

And so, dearly beloved family of God, let the promise of eternal life become more and more for each one of us the knowledge of eternal life. Let eternal life be the land in which we live and walk—our heritage in Christ Jesus. Eternal life. Knowing God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent…

…In just the same way those of old came to know the land.

 

“Whoso Findeth Me Findeth Life”

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The other day I was browsing here and there in my old copy of William Gurnall’s The Christian In Complete Armour.  I was reading absent mindedly (not a practice I recommend) because I was thinking of a passage in Proverbs Chapter 8 that has laid hold of me for many days.

Blessed is the man that heareth me [that is, Wisdom], watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.

I was savouring the words in my thoughts. “Heareth me… watching daily at my gates… waiting at the posts of my doors…”  Here is someone with a one-track mind.   Someone intently focused day in and day out.

Suddenly before my eyes on the page of Gurnall’s book was this:

     It becomes thee, poor creature, to wait at the posts of wisdom…

Could you be speaking to me, dear Lord, poor creature that I am?

It’s a wonderful chapter, Proverbs Chapter 8.  Wisdom cries out to all men (this is gender inclusive language).

          Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men.

What is the cry?

          O ye simple, understand wisdom, and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.

And so while the cry goes out to all, the implication is that those who are wise in their own eyes are not likely to hear Wisdom’s cry: this is for the simple, for fools.

I wish we had space to savour every word in the chapter.  About halfway through we come to this:

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.
I was set up [anointed] from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust [the primal dust, NKJV] of the world.
When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth,
Then I was by Him as one brought up with Him [as a master craftsman, NKJV]; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him;
Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth, and my delights were with the sons of men.

And so the veil is drawn back a little; we begin to comprehend that the One who is speaking here is the Living Wisdom and Word of God Himself, who was with God in the beginning, and by whom God created all things.  It is not merely that God in illimitable power created all things; all that He did, as we discover in this chapter, He created with transcendent Wisdom.

And therefore it is Wisdom who says:

Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.  Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.

“Therefore…”  Whenever you see a therefore, find out what it’s there for.  This one is there to cause it to dawn on us that those who hear Wisdom’s instruction shall become Wisdom’s own work, akin to the wonders recounted in this chapter, which to read fills the heart with awe.

And so we come to the verses that have arrested me:

Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.

“Whoso findeth me findeth life.”  That one line has especially captivated me; this is why the call is to hear, and watch, and wait so intently and so continually.  “Whoso findeth me findeth life.”

To find wisdom is to find life.  God asked Job (if you recall from last time):

          Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom?

No, not by Job’s wisdom; God’s wisdom, which He gave freely to the hawk, wisdom with life in it, wisdom empowering it to fly.  The bird of the air and the beast of the field, the tree of the forest and the rock of the hill, the clouds above and the fountains of the deep—everything God created—is a revelation of some facet of His eternal Wisdom, who, as God’s Master Craftsman, wrought all His works, rejoicing continually before Him, and was daily His delight in the bringing forth of the old creation.

You know where I’m headed with this, don’t you.

For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

“Created in Christ Jesus…”  The new creation!  And, “we are His workmanship…”  We—that is, the Church.  The word workmanship is the Greek poema, which means this Master Craftsman’s handiwork, His masterpiece, the project He has poured His all into, even Himself.  It is His life’s work, the crowning piece of all His wisdom and works, beyond which there is not, nor ever can be, any greater.  The Church of Jesus Christ, “the church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”  I know, it’s a far cry from what we see in our world around us today.  But let us tred softly, and remind ourselves that we don’t see it all; much of the work is behind this Artist’s veil, and He—Wisdom the Master Craftsman—is not finished yet.

Wisdom is, as we mentioned above, the Logos, the Word who became flesh—our Lord Jesus Christ.  But I am almost reluctant to state this, lest we file this in our mental filing cabinet as more information in the “Things I Already Know” file.  We need to look at this the other way around.  To hear our Lord Jesus Christ is to hear Wisdom speaking the word that is life, and which, as we respond, builds us uniquely and vitally into Wisdom’s new-creation building project.

If we’re not hearing (that is, hearkening to) that kind of word, we’re not really hearing our Lord Jesus Christ.

And so, I lay this to heart. I take my place with those among the sons of men to whom Wisdom cries—the simple, the fools.

But I am told that though I am such, I am blessed…

…If I hear Wisdom’s instruction.

…If I take my place at Wisdom’s gate, watching daily.

…If I stand at the posts of Wisdom’s doors, waiting as a servant waits.

For I know that Wisdom shall surely speak.   And I will find life

…And draw out from God His favour.

Wisdom continues with these somber words:

But He that sinneth against me [or, as some versions have it, he who misses me, or does not find me] wrongeth his own soul.  All they that hate me love death.

What a fearful warning.  Could not this wonderful chapter be concluded on a happier note?  But that’s the way Wisdom ends the chapter.

I’ll leave it there too.

 

 

God’s Whispered Word And Wisdom

Now that with age my eyes are getting a little better, I’ve discovered they’ve been graced to see more often in the old creation the invisible things of God.

The grandeur of a great mountain.  A growing tree.  A branch.  A leaf.  A brook flowing crystal clear.  The speckles on a trout…  These all have a message to speak that, when understood, enables us to know better the One who created all this and left us with a sense of wonder about it all.  And He created it not just a display of His great power, but also of His great wisdom.  Everything He created contains, and reveals, some aspect of the wondrous wisdom of God.

O LORD, how manifold are thy works!  In wisdom Thou hast made them all…  (Ps. 104:24).

Some time ago I was out in a popular recreation area.  It was a beautiful day, and warm, and around me were many people, most of them young people preoccupied with themselves and their play, rapt in the illusion that youth is eternal, enjoying themselves and the beautiful day, and God’s beautiful creation—yet totally oblivious to the God who created it all.  I felt such a darkness there, the darkness of the darkened heart of man, the lostness of man.  It started to close in on me, and I wanted to get away.  As I turned and took a step I happened to glance down at the ground.  The once green grass had been worn to the dirt by the many people walking back and forth, yet there at my feet was a bee seeking nectar in a little flower of clover that had somehow escaped the foot of man.  And a sudden flash of illumination came upon me—I wasn’t even looking for it—of an Order, a Wisdom, that had brought a whole creation into being.  I felt a sudden yet familiar fear.

And in that fear, a longing prayer—that my own life become more and more an expression of that same eternal Wisdom that pervades the natural creation.

A longing, I say, and an expectation.  I am reminded of something Job said:

Lo, these are but the outskirts of his ways: And how small a whisper do we hear  of him! (Job 26:14 ASV).

Job had been reminding his friends about certain wonders of the natural creation that reveal God’s power and wisdom.  Yet marvels though they are, Job said these are just the outskirts, the fringes, of God’s ways.  By His word God had spoken it all into existence—the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein.  But, said Job, that’s only His whispered word.  And he just knew, somehow, that God had more to say.  That led him to ask a further question:

But the thunder of His power who can understand?

To what extent Job discovered the answer to his question I don’t know.  But if the old creation is God’s wisdom and word in a whisper… is not the new creation His thunder?  Thus, my expectation.

Later God asks Job many questions about His whispers, and by them He “convinceth Job of ignorance and imbecility” (as the heading of the page in my old King James Bible reads).  Thus God opened his eyes to see Him like never before, and he repented in dust and ashes.

Oh what wondrous questions He asked him.  When I read them I too am convicted of ignorance and imbecility.  Among them He asked, “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts?  Or who hath given understanding to the heart?” (Job 38.36).

Again He asked, “Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom?” (Job 39:26).  You mean the hawk flies by wisdom?  Apparently, yes.  That is God whispering to the open, attentive ear.  The wisdom God gave the hawk is a wisdom and understanding that is not mere blackboard teaching, but has empowering life in it by which the hawk soars in the heavens.  That is wisdom.

And that is the kind of wisdom His new creation Man is to walk in; that’s what is ours in Christ Jesus—that kind of wisdom, wisdom with power in it, wisdom with life in it, something akin to the instinct of life that we see in earthly creatures like the hawk.  We call it instinct.  God calls it wisdom.  The New Creation man is not someone who is trying to live by rules written in the Bible, whether in the Old Testament, or even in the New.  He is living his life out from what he is by nature: a new creation in Christ Jesus, in whom a Law and Wisdom is written in the inward parts—in the heart—the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.

The new creation Man, we are told, is God’s handiwork, the masterpiece of His creative genius and wisdom (Eph. 2:10).  He is creating us in Christ Jesus, is bringing to maturity a many-membered new creation Man governed by a Law of Life and Wisdom that the old creation is just a whisper of.

It means an order, a harmony among those members, that is utterly breathtaking.

And when the Queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built, and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance [the standing] of his ministers, and of their apparel; his cupbearers also, and their apparel, and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her (2 Chr. 9.4).

What did the Queen of Sheba see?  What took her breath away?  Solomon’s wisdom, yes.  But the transcendent order of it all—of his kingdom and temple, the house he built for God.  The order, the harmony, of his many attendants and servants.  Yet the temple Solomon built was only a type, a shadow, of the new creation temple a Greater than Solomon is even now building in the earth.  With what is He building this new creation temple?  With Wisdom—the same Wisdom and Word by which He made the old creation (Pr. 8.22-31, Ps. 104.24).  And when He is finished, this Temple, this House, will shine forth all the fullness of the wisdom and glory of God such that all nations shall bow before Him—and principalities and powers in heavenly places as well—when they see in the Church “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10).

I tremble to think of this—that this is actually going to happen.  Even unbelievers, even the most godless of men, they love to get out in nature.  It’s the order, the harmony, they touch in the old creation, and though they refuse to know God, they stand in awe of it all.  But when those in the world around us see God’s order fully revealed in the kingdom of His new creation Man, in the Church which is His body, in the House and Temple which is the masterpiece of all His works—when they begin to see the Christians at last walking together in the new creation Life and Wisdom of God, and in the harmony of a new creation Order, it is going to be order out of chaos to them, and the fear of God is going to grip them, and they are going to believe (Jn. 17:20-23).  They are going to see such fearful harmony ordered by the new creation Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus that it is going to utterly take their breath away, and turn their hearts to Him in a way that present-day Christendom, with the cacophony of all its discord and divisions, has not been able to do.

They are going to hear instead a voice of many waters blended together in one majestic Voice—the thunder of His power.

I tremble at the prospect.

 

 

 

 

 

Now The Good News

First the bad news: we wrote about that last time.  Now the Good News.  That is God’s order, which we see in the way He sets forth the day in Genesis.  First evening, then morning.  First darkness, then light.

The dimensions of the Good News are greater than the universe, so I am acutely conscious of the smallness of this blog entry.  But simply put, the Good News is light shining in the darkness—light that opens the eyes of the spiritually blind.  If it is just words (and oh, we have so much that is just words), people’s eyes will not be opened to see their grave condition.  Make no mistake: the bad news of man’s spiritual state is very bad news; any thought people have that things are not all that bad is a serious deception with serious consequences.  And people cannot be talked out of their blindness; their eyes must be opened so they may see and be convicted, and come to repentance, and turn from darkness to light, from the authority of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18).

Here again is that passage in Ephesians we enlarged on last time, and notice again how Paul sets forth the bad news in the past tense.

And you… who were dead in trespasses and sins
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the age of this world, according to the prince of the authority of the air, the spirit that now worketh in [energizes] the children of the disobedience;
Among whom we all had our conduct in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:1-3).

Why the past tense?  It’s because the people to whom Paul is writing are “saints… the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1).  They are no longer in Adam, but are now, joy of joys, in Christ.  And so he says that they were dead in trespasses and sins.  Now they are alive with the life of Christ.  Further, in the past they walked according to the age of this world and the spirit that has authority over the children of the disobedience.  They walk this way no longer.  They are no longer within that spirit’s domain.  They are not under his authority now.  They once had their conduct in the lusts of their flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.  Not anymore.  They are no longer children of wrath.

What made this possible?  Paul hastens on to tell us.  He had introduced this passage with the words, “And you…”  Now come the words, “But God…”

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 are ye saved);
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus;
That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Following the bad news that Paul has first opened our eyes to, this is good news, exceeding good news!  It is mind blowing, in fact, stretching beyond its limits our capacity to comprehend it all.  I read this and other passages, and… am I dreaming?  Can this be true?  Can mortal eyes actually be reading this?  You mean those in Christ are no longer in the domain of sin and death? They are in another kingdom now, where grace and life reign?  Is that not a wonder?  Is that not astonishing good news?  Yes!  And cause for great joy!

Yet those words, “for His great love wherewith He loved us,” were written, I am sure, with tears, and we must go to other scriptures to find out more fully what this love involved.  If those to whom Paul was writing had been quickened together with Christ, and raised up together with Him, and seated together with Him in the heavenlies, it was because through faith in Jesus and baptism into Christ they had become partakers of what God accomplished on the Cross of Calvary, where Christ was baptized into the death that Adam in his disobedience had brought upon himself and all his progeny. Since all those in Adam were dead in sin, Christ died to sin, so that all who are baptized into Him might be dead to sin and live unto God, unto righteousness (Rom. 6:1-11, 2 Pt. 2:24).  He who knew no sin—shoes off, please—was made sin for us, that we might become nothing less than the very righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

Back to the Ephesian passage: let’s continue to pay attention to some tenses, and the reason we are doing this is because all too often much of this is relegated to the future or to Heaven.  Not so.  Those to whom Paul was writing, those in Christ, were quickened (at a past point in time) together with Christ.  They were raised together with Him.  This is also the past tense.  When did this happen?  It happened when they were baptized into Christ.  (It is baptism in Holy Spirit that accomplishes this, not baptism in water, which is also necessary.  But this is a topic too large; it will have to wait for another time.)  Baptized into Christ they are no longer in Adam now.  They are in Christ; it is His resurrection life they are now partakers of.  Walking with Christ in resurrection life is the present reality of those in Christ (Rom. 6:4).  Further, they are even now seated together with Christ in the heavenlies.  This also took place in their baptism into Christ, since this is where He Himself is seated at the right hand of God.  Then comes the future, and what a future it is.  “…That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  It appears that it takes eternal life in the ages to come to explore this great salvation that is in Christ.

And so when Paul now pens everybody’s favourite verse, let us bear in mind what he has in mind—the immense dimensions of the salvation he has just been speaking of:

For, by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
Not of works lest any man should boast.

This is Good News—the salvation that God has freely prepared in Christ for any who are willing to receive Him.  Salvation by grace through faith is the wondrous gift of God in Christ.  (For salvation is not a product we receive apart from Christ Himself.)  And yes, His grace means the forgiveness of sins because of His death.  But much more, grace also means salvation from sin’s power in the life of an entirely new creation Man who is no longer under the reign of death.  They have “passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24).  They have eternal life—even now (1 Jn. 5:13).  In due time this eternal life will catch up to their bodies (Rom. 8:23), but even while yet in mortal flesh, those in Christ have eternal life, and even now reign in the power of that life (Rom. 5:17).

What Does This Look Like?

 If this is the present reality of those in Christ—being made alive together with Christ, being raised up with Him, being seated with Him in the heavenlies—what does this look like?  What does reigning in life look like while we are yet in mortal flesh?

It looks like love.  Love is the primal characteristic of those who live, those in whom death no longer reigns.

We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.  He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.  Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (1 Jn. 3:14,15).

Eternal life, then, reigning life, finds its expression in love.  In its many facets of patience, endurance, faith, forbearance, forgiveness, humility, obedience… love is revealed, reigning where sin and death once reigned, ruling where pride once ruled.  I think you may see where I’m coming from here, and where I’m going.  Remember (from last time) the route that Lucifer mapped out for himself?

I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the Most High.  (Isa. 14:13,14)

Christ took a different route.  He thought it not rapine—a thing to be taken and held by force—to be equal with God (Phil. 2:5-8).  Rather, He emptied Himself, becoming in the likeness of men.  No, not famous men, not rich men, not high men.  He took on Him the form of a bondslave.  And being found in fashion as a man He humbled Himself even further, and became obedient unto death.  No, not a noble death, not a hero’s death.  The death of a despised criminal.  The lowest of the low.  The death of a cross.

That is a different pathway than the one Lucifer sought to take, and into which he invited Adam to turn and walk with him, to the ruin of the race.  Christ’s pathway was in the opposite direction—His motive was love—to the salvation of a new race.  Being found in fashion as a man, instead of seeking the heights, instead of seeking to ascend into heaven, instead of seeking to sit in a throne above the stars of God, instead of seeking to ascend above the heights of the clouds, Christ descended into the lower parts of the earth—which meant taking upon Himself the apron of a bondslave who washed the feet of others, always the duty of the lowest slave.  “I am among you,” He told His disciples, “as one who serves” (Lk. 22:27).  He called this service love (Jn. 13:1).

But then, His love going deeper, He went even further, and walked in obedience unto death, a death that was in His case unjust.  Yet this route took Him to the destination that Lucifer never arrived to by his own self-seeking route.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him… (Phil. 2:9).

His motive was love.  He is there for our sake, not His own, that in the power of His Spirit we may live as He lives, love as He loves—reign as He reigns, in our own cross, and in all circumstances, just as He reigned in His.  This, beloved, is the way of salvation—the way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the way of the Cross—the way love.  He humbled Himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.  It was there on the Cross that He died to the root of pride in the heart of man.  His humiliation is our salvation.  Those who are seated together with Him in the heavenlies—it is His throne they are in, it is He who is exalted.  Gone now is any thought of exalting our own throne, gone is the Serpent’s poisonous thought of reigning above the stars; rather, we reign in the humility of Christ, knowing that the kings of God’s kingdom are servants of all, bondslaves who serve others in love, laying down their lives for one another in love.  As their Lord had done, so do they (Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 3:16).  This is their greatest honour.

It is the lowliness and love of God in Christ that overcame the pride of the Serpent that man was infected with in the beginning.  Instead of the poison of the Serpent coursing through us—pride, envy, malice, hatred—the love and humility of God now flows in and through those who are in Christ, motivating all they say and do.  That is salvation.

And what is the purpose of all this—this so great salvation?  It is to the intent that God may be glorified in a Man who is His very image and likeness.  God said in the beginning, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” and formed Adam of the dust of the ground.  The Serpent determined to efface that image, and did.  So entered the bad news.  But God foiled the Serpent in his purpose, for, even before the beginning God had the Good News in mind, and in the fullness of time, brought forth out of Adam another Man.  His eternal purpose was not in Adam, but “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11).  It is this Man who is the true image of God (2 Cor. 4:4, Heb. 1:3).  But when this Man came on the scene, Satan determined to efface Him as well.  He was foiled again.  This time utterly.  In the wisdom of God, the very cross upon which Satan conspired to have Christ crucified became our salvation.

And so it turns out that what we said about the Good News following the bad news—yes, that’s true, but God had the Good News in mind even before the bad news.  He could never have endured the bad news of what was going on in his creature man if He had not, before it all, prepared “a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:18).  This was God’s comfort of hope in the bad news He knew was coming.  The Gospel.  The Glad Tidings.  The Good News.  The Lamb of God.  Our Lord Jesus Christ.