Monthly Archives: March 2012

Segulah—God’s Special Treasure

Years ago… let me modify that… many years ago… I was part of a fledgling group of Christians the Lord had brought together.  We met in homes.  A few times we had a visit from a man from the United States—Lee Ellenwood by name.  He ministered in our midst a word that was… well… let’s just say it was “different.”  For one thing he liked to act out what he was teaching.

One day he told us about the sheep in the sheep pen contentedly eating their routine fodder when suddenly one of them lets out a roar.  Brother Ellenwood demonstrated.  It was different all right.

Here are the sheep in the sheep pen contentedly eating their rations.  But—and Brother Ellenwood acted it out before our eyes—here is this young sheep hungrily looking off to the mountains in the distance.  Suddenly he lets out a roar.

His fellow sheep feeding beside him are not a little shocked.

This happens again and again to the consternation of the other sheep in the pen.

“What’s gotten into you, brother?  What do you mean by all this roaring?  Sheep don’t roar.  And what’s this about prey out there in the mountains?  We’re beginning to wonder about you.”

All of this fell strange on our ears, and there were some among us who began to wonder about Brother Ellenwood.

But his message could have been given in two words.  “There’s more.”

I liked Brother Ellenwood.  There was a gentleness about him.  Yet he spoke of lions and prey in the mountains of God–our heritage in the Spirit–and of not resting till we had brought down that prey and made it our own.  He told us of the different names for lions in the Bible.  The old lion, the young lion… the hunting lion… the great lion… I forget them all now.  But what he taught was entirely scriptural.  Jacob prophesied of Judah the lion’s whelp– the lion of the tribe of Judah– who has “gone up” from the prey (Gen. 49.9)– speaking, I believe, of the ascension of Christ the Lamb of God after the “prey” this Lion brought down at Calvary.  Balaam too prophesied of the people who would rise up “as a great lion… and not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain” (Num. 23.24).  (It’s interesting to note here how Balaam speaks of “the people” (plural) and then suddenly is speaking of “he” (singular).

Another time as Brother Ellenwood was ministering he picked up a dinner plate from a table nearby and began to chew on it.  “My,” he said, “isn’t this plate good?”  We laughed.  But how often do we do the same thing, he said, when we focus our attention on some great minister more than on the message he has given?  We eat the plate admiringly and forget the food on it.

I remember the time he told us about the twinkies.  Apparently it’s some kind of sugary treat sold in the U.S.   “How many Christians live on twinkies?” he asked.  He meant Christians who have a perpetual taste for superficial things—such as ministries who get the people’s attention with some gimmick or novelty or focus on the spectacular.  Or some new thing making the rounds of the churches.  The latest innovation someone has come up with to ward off Christian boredom.  And people get so full of this stuff they have no appetite for solid food.  Strong meat.  Lion’s food.

Now I come to the title of this blog entry.  I remember once Brother Ellenwood told us of the Hebrew words sether, and segulah. He spoke the words as though savouring something very tasty, something very rich and satisfying.  And he said he would come back some time and tell us about these.

That never happened.  I don’t really know why, but he didn’t make it back our way.  Maybe he was out in those mountains of God somewhere looking for prey.

But the words stuck with me.  Sether.  Segulah.  Eventually I searched out their meanings myself.  They are indeed rich with truth.  Solid truth.

I’ve written about them both, and now have added Segulah—God’s Special Treasure to the page Other Writings.  (It’s too long for a blog entry.)

Perhaps someday I’ll add something on Sether as well.

The Sword In The Shadow

One thing about the Internet is that it has brought into being an information overload.  There is an overwhelming ocean of information available.  We have been deluged with knowledge… and you pretty much need an “ark” to get through it all safely.  For, though it was never God’s intention, even Christian teachings end up becoming that—just more information.  There are thousands of websites hosted by Christians, thousands of messages, thousands of blogs like this one.  How much of it actually penetrates the heart in a way that changes us?  It can become a habit to not read things carefully and prayerfully—and selectively—with a prepared heart.  You just skim things quickly, and move on.

Let us be careful that our spiritual faculties don’t become dull with all this use.  That can happen.  I want to be watchful to not let that happen.  Here is why.

The other day I sensed the Spirit of the Lord reminding me again that He yet intends to speak forth a very powerful word.  And it is going to surprise many.  I was reminded of a passage in Isaiah.

Listen, O isles, unto Me; and hearken, ye peoples, from far; The LORD hath called Me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath He made mention of My name.
And He hath made My mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid Me, and made Me a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He hid Me;
And said unto Me, Thou art My Servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified (Isa. 49.1-3).

This passage is no doubt speaking of Christ Himself.  For it is Christ who has “the sharp sword with two edges” proceeding out of His mouth (Rev. 1.16, 2.12).  At the same time this is speaking of a corporate testimony:  “Thou art My Servant, O Israel…”  Israel is a corporate entity.  Yet here this corporate entity is spoken of in the singular.  “Thou art My Servant, O Israel…”  In the King James Version of the  Bible, thou is always the second person singular pronoun.

And so I think this is one of the places in the Old Testament where we see hidden the mystery of the corporate Man that God revealed to his apostles—particularly the apostle Paul—the mystery of Christ.  Paul wrote, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12.12).  He didn’t say, “so also is the body of Christ.”  He said, “so also is Christ.”  We then as members of the body of Christ are this sword, this mouth, that Christ greatly desires to speak out of.

One of the weapons of our spiritual armour is, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6.17).  It is not just the Bible.  It is “the Spirit’s sword, which is the word of God.”  It is the word that the Spirit of God speaks that is the sword of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But it is we who wield—actually become—this sword.

We are reminded of Gideon and his little band of three hundred.  “The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon…” they cried.  Not just the sword of Gideon. And not just the sword of the Lord either.  “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon.”  One sword!  The sword of the Lord and of Gideon and his little band of dedicated men who were one with Him.  It wrought utter havoc among the enemies of the people of God.

How little we have seen of this formidable, fearful, spiritual weapon.  How little our world about us has seen of it.  How little our enemies have tasted of it… though they dread it like nothing else.

We—and they—are yet going to see this terrible swift sword.

There is no more formidable weapon in the whole universe.

And it is going to go forth only from the mouths of those who have been hidden in the shadow of the hand of the Lord.

The hand speaks of the Lord’s dealings in our lives: His discipline, His chastening… His love… His covering, His protection… His own work.  “In the shadow of His hand hath He hid me…”  Others can’t see you there.  His shadow is over you… and He is working.  What is He doing?  You yourself may wonder at times.  Is He doing anything in my life?  You may wonder why you never amount to anything when others are out there in the light doing great things for God.  But as He keeps you hidden from view in the shadow of His hand He is molding your mouth, shaping your mouth, into a sharp sword with two edges.  You are learning not to speak your own words, but His.  You are learning that many times you have nothing to say.  His purpose in it is that you might become part of this corporate Servant in whom He is glorified.

Jesus said of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shew (declare) unto you” (Jn. 16.15).  This is the commitment of the Holy Spirit—not to speak from Himself, but what He hears the Son of God saying (Jn. 16.13).

But when He speaks—He and the one in whom He abides—it is Christ Himself speaking.

What is the Lord Jesus Christ going to do with this sword?

First, He is going to purify His churches with it (Rev. 2.12).  It is a two-edged sword (a two-mouthed sword as the original has it: God’s mouth and our own mouth) that pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  It is a sword—a word—with the very eyes of God in it, and lays all bare before Him (Heb. 4.12,13).  Only those in whom the hand of the Lord has wrought the heart of a priest are going to be entrusted with this kind of sword.

Then He is going to bathe this sword in Heaven (Isa. 34.5).  That is, He is going to cause principalities and powers in heavenly places, the rulers of the darkness of this age, to know its devastating power.

And He is going to visit the serpent, the dragon, in the midst of the sea with this sword (Isa. 27.1).

Very wondrous things, these, and fearsome.

A mouth that is a sword of light–  laser sharp… and just as penetrating.

A man or woman who, long-hidden in God’s quiver, is the arrow He selects and suddenly shoots into the heart of His enemy like a bolt of lightning.

Only those who continue to abide under the shadow of God’s hand will become this kind of weaponry.

The Sea And The Waves Roaring

I don’t know if you are feeling the same way I am about things in the news these days. It seems to me things have “morphed” into a frightening ugliness.  My news source is the Google news page, and I don’t make a habit of going through it all.  A lot of it I dare not read; it’s unclean.  Much of it I can’t read; it’s too painful to read it.  So I skim the headlines.

The other day as I considered it all, these words came on my heart again and again.  “…The sea and the waves roaring… The sea and the waves roaring…” (Lk. 21.25).  That’s what Jesus prophesied things would be like just prior to the coming of the kingdom of God.

Upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring…

That’s a perfect description of the sea just now—the sea of nations, the sea of humanity.  There is so much distress, and perplexity, and unrest.

In fact I wonder if I don’t see a new beast rising up out of the sea, something along the lines of Daniel’s vision, “and behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.  And four beasts came up from the sea…” (Dan. 7.3).  John the Revelator saw something similar—a beast having seven heads and ten horns rising out of the sea.

Now, I’m not trying to invent a new eschatology of what that is all about, and I’m not saying I’ve had a divine revelation; it’s just a feeling I have; I’m just surmising.

What I’m thinking of is the “waves” of influence that have arisen as masses of ordinary people in various nations have gathered together—multitudes in the streets banding together in a common cause.  They just came up “out of the sea.”  They discovered that massed together, rising up together, they had power.  Is this a new political force in the earth– a new beast rising out ot the sea?

Some of these waves have been extremely violent.  Add to that the frightening riots in our so-called orderly democratic societies.  Anarchy right before our eyes.

Now add in this– the influence of social media these days.  The little people who had no voice now have a megaphone that has turned their puny voice into a shout that gets political attention.

Whereunto shall all this grow?  Truly the waves of the sea are becoming very restless.  Very boisterous.  I believe they are going to grow even more boisterous.

A storm is gathering strength.

I take courage in knowing this—the One who stilled the waves on Galilee will in His timing speak again and still the waves of this great sea.

Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, Thou stillest them.  (Ps. 89.9).

What I mean is… consider this verse in the light of the one just before it.

O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto Thee? Or to Thy faithfulness round about thee?
Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise Thou stillest them.

Thou rulest the raging of the sea.  Who is that?  The LORD God of hosts.

Fast forward to a stormy night on Galilee centuries after this psalm was written.  Who was it that stilled the raging waves of the sea that stormy night on Galilee?  It was a Man whom to see was to see the LORD God of hosts, a Man who did only what He saw His Father the LORD God of hosts doing.  The things this Man did, it was God the Father who dwelt in Him who did the works (Jn. 14.10).

And so it was the LORD God of hosts who calmed the sea of Galilee that night, fulfilling an ancient prophecy of the psalms.

I believe we shall yet see an even greater fulfillment of that prophecy.  I anticipate that this same One shall speak again and still the raging waves of the restless sea of humanity.  How shall He do so?  Through that same Man again—and those who are in union with Him because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.

That will indeed be a very powerful word going forth from the mouth of the Lord—in the body of Christ.

High sounding words?  Do you think it’s even possible for this kind of word to go forth from the body of Christ?  I do—when it is Christ Himself speaking.

Which means you and I must seek very earnestly to abide in Christ and hear His Voice and speak what He is speaking.  Be sure that it’s only those who are abiding in Christ— only those who are walking in the yoke and lowliness of Christ, who are going to be entrusted with this kind of word and authority.

But it’s the only answer for this increasingly lawless and violent and godless world.  We are already seeing anarchy in many places.  So far men have always felt they could solve their problems and bring things under control.  I believe God is going to convince man that this is no longer true.  The problems are becoming too great, too complex.  Things are spinning out of control.

The sea is getting very stormy indeed.

It frightens me… and I’m glad to read the disciples of old were scared too that night on Galilee.  They were sure they were about to perish.  I can identify.

…But didn’t they know who was with them in their little ark?  And don’t I know too?

Jesus—He was asleep on a pillow through it all—awoke to their cries.

And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mk. 4.39).

Notice that.  “He rebuked the wind…”  That’s where the real problem is—those “four winds of the heavens” that are always stirring up the great sea.  These are the real instigators behind all the turmoil—evil principalities and powers in the heavenly realm.

“…And He said unto the sea, Peace, be still.”  He rebukes the wind and speaks to the sea—to the peoples in turmoil and unrest.

And there was a great calm.

The disciples were overawed at this.

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, what manner of man is this, that even the wind and the waves obey Him?

They weren’t even sure He was a man, as the original Greek implies.

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?

Who?  What manner of Man?  A Man who is one with God.

Likewise shall many be overawed when this same Man speaks peace and brings order out of chaos again.

New Page: Other Writings

Greetings to all this snowy day in March!

I have added a new page called Other Writings to A Mending Feast, which you will find under the banner at the top.

So far there are four writings there:

Apostolic Order In The Church

Be Strong And Very Courageous

The Day Of The Double Portion

The Morning Star

There’s a brief description under each title giving an overview of what it’s about.

I will add other writings from time to time, so if you are interested in reading them please check that page once in a while.

Blessings to all,
Allan

This Ark Can Go Through Fire

We’ve been talking about the great flood of Noah’s day and the ark he built, and how that is a figure of the atonement of Christ on Calvary.  We saw that Peter likened the flood to a great baptism, and the ark to God’s salvation in that baptism.  Peter said that the Christian’s baptism in water is “a like figure” (1 Pt. 4.21).  Water baptism is itself a figure that cannot accomplish what the real baptism can—the cleansing of the conscience.

This does not mean we should not be baptized in water, as some have taught (the early Quakers and the Salvation Army, for instance).  The early Quakers taught that as a mere outward ordinance water baptism wasn’t necessary.  I can understand their stand on this; the church of their day had become totally seized up with the formalism of outward ordinances.  But Paul, after that experience on the Damascus Road, was baptized in water.  And in other places in The Acts we find that the apostles who baptized people in the Holy Spirit also baptized them in water.  And so we do this also. It’s a step of obedience that shows our commitment to submit to the true baptism—baptism into Christ—all our days.

And we are yet going to discover that baptism into Christ, the baptism of the cross, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire—all this along with water baptism is really only “one baptism”—is going to make us invulnerable to the fires of the Day of the Lord.  This is our “ark.”

Peter has much to say about Noah and the flood as something that foreshadows the present dispensation and what is before us now—the fires of the Day of the Lord.  And he says that in the last days there would be scoffers walking after their own lusts and saying:

Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (2 Pt. 3.4).

George Warnock points out in one of his writings (Chain Reaction in Realms of the Spirit) that we are well past that time now.  Men are no longer saying that all things continue the same.  How could they?  Things have accelerated dramatically the last few decades.  What with the AIDS epidemic, and 9/11, and devastating earthquakes and tsunamis, and peace and order disintegrating on every hand… no one says any more that things continue the same.  More and more the words of the scoffers are hollow in their mouths when they ridicule the words of the Lord.

Peter reminds them (and us) that it was the word of the Lord that sustained the old world (the world before the flood, 2 Pt. 3.5).  It was the word of the Lord that had created the heavens of old, and the earth.  It was the word of the Lord that on the third day had caused the dry land to appear out of the water (Gen. 1.9).  Even during the time when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared, the word of the Lord continued to sustain that world.

But then the day… and the hour… and the minute came… and by the same word of the Lord the windows of heaven were opened and all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the world was deluged with water, and perished (2 Pt. 3.6).

It is only the word of God that continues to sustain our present world (Heb. 1.3, 11.3).  Only the word of the Lord.  Not yet, He says.  Not yet.  Not yet.  The longsuffering God who waited in the days of Noah is waiting again in our day.  He is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance (2 Pt. 3.9).  And so we account that His longsuffering is with a view to salvation (2 Pt. 3.15).  It’s not because He is slack on the job and doesn’t care about this sin-torn world.  He hates iniquity far deeper than we.  But the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s people is not finished yet.  The Ark is not quite ready yet.

But when it is finally ready?  He will speak.  There will be fire.

But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition (destruction) of ungodly men” (2 Pt. 3.7).

What the ark was in prophetic type back in the days of Noah it is in reality now.  Back then those in the ark became the beginnings of a new creation.  All else was destroyed.  Noah was the “eighth person” (2 Pt. 2.5).  “Eight souls were saved by water” (1 Pt. 3.20).  Eight in Scripture is the number that signifies a new beginning.  It is the same now.  God has a new beginning in mind—a new creation.  Its beginnings are already in the Ark.  For “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature…” (2 Cor. 5.17).

And only what is in the Ark Christ Jesus is going to survive the fires of the day of the Lord.

All else will not make it through.  “The earth and all the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pt. 3.10).  Wickedness shall not rise up the second time.  We will all be glad.  For out of it will come a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness—that is, in which righteousness is not an unwelcome unwanted stranger, but is at home (2 Pt. 3.13).

I long for that Day.  Surely we understand that this is not about some kind of vengeful God wreaking wrath on innocent victims.  It’s about a God of love who is pained more deeply than we can comprehend with the evil that has engulfed His world.  That’s what motivated Him back in Noah’s day.  He hated the iniquity.  He hated the violence.  He put a stop to it.

What He has in mind as a result of the fires of the day of the Lord is a world in which righteousness is at home.  He is a God who loves righteousness, and hates iniquity.  Do you and I also love righteousness and hate iniquity?  Are we like Him ourselves?  Just as Noah built the ark and in doing so condemned the world, we can hasten the coming of the Day of Fire by our own “ark building”—our holy and godly lives—as we mentioned last time.

Therefore, since all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
Looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of God… (2 Pt. 3.11, 12, NKJV).

We can hasten that day!

And we can be found in Christ in that day—in the Ark, that is, when everything around us is going up in smoke.

Wherefore, beloved, seeing ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless (2 Pt. 3.14).

There is only one Place in this universe where anyone can be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.  That is in Christ.  In the Ark.

Beloved, there are many who mock these Bible stories, and scoff at them– at the word of the Lord.  Let us see to it that we ourselves are not mockers and scoffers.  Let us take these things seriously.  Let us get out of Sodom.  Let us get into the Ark.  I remember as a young man how I myself used to heap scorn upon such fairy tales, and the naive people who believed them.  But I remember the night I was converted.  It still stands out in my memory how I suddenly saw that the story of Noah and the ark was actually true.  It was not a fairy tale.  It was true!  It actually happened!  What a change had taken place in this I-know-better mind of mine!

And so I say… let us take God seriously, just as Noah did, who being “warned of God of things not seen as yet,” by faith built that ark and entered it.  Let us give diligence to do the same.  God means business.  Judgment is at the door.  This has been so impressed upon my spirit of late.  How little we understand God—that He is a God who exercises not only lovingkindness, but also “justice and righteousness in the earth” (Jer. 9.24).  How terribly people have presumed upon His goodness and lovingkindness and longsuffering and patience and grace.  But when His hour comes He is going to show His undiluted hatred for unrighteousness and iniquity.  It has caused Him such deep pain to see what iniquity has caused in His earth.

He is going to deal with it all.  The Day of Fire is dawning.  And just as the ark was the only way through “the stormy waters,” the Cross of Calvary is the only way through the fire—the fires of judgment of the Great Day of the Lord.  It is the mystery of the Cross.  What to some is certain destruction becomes for others their salvation—because of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Ark Convicts Of Righteousness

The writer of Hebrews says it was Noah’s building the ark that justified God in bringing the flood on the world of the ungodly.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Heb. 11.7).

Now, when God destroyed the old world with that devastating flood He was not being mean to a bunch of nice people.  We are told that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6.5).  In other words the sin of Adam had come to a fullness.  And we are told that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pt. 2.5), and that it was those who “were disobedient” who suffered the consequences of their own disobedience (1 Pt. 4.20).  God is just in all His ways.  He had called for repentance.  He had made provision for salvation.  It was rejected.

And it was Noah’s building the ark that condemned the world.  Every board he fitted, every nail he pounded, passed sentence upon a guilty world.  Noah in building the ark was working out his own salvation, you might say.  But at the same time he was passing sentence on the world.  For, his building the ark demonstrated that God had provision for salvation in a wicked world.  It demonstrated that a man could be righteous in God’s sight—with the righteousness of faith.  Noah had heard from God.  He responded to what He was hearing.  God gave him clear instructions on how he was to build the ark.  He built it by faith.  Thus he became heir of the righteousness that is by faith.  The ark became a testimony, then, that condemned the world.  It provided God with just cause to bring in the flood.  Noah’s building the ark demonstrated that God had provided a way for sinners to be saved.

Just as the Atonement does—the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As we saw last time, the flood of Noah’s day, and the ark of his salvation through it all, speaks of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We usually view what happened at Calvary from the salvation side of it, and rightly so.  But Christ’s life and death also became God’s condemnation of an evil world.  Notice what Jesus said as a result of His perfectly pure walk on earth:

If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
He that hateth Me hateth My Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father (Jn. 15.22-24).

The thing that was unique about Jesus’ words and works was that it was actually the Father who was being revealed in all He said and did.  No one could pretend they loved Jehovah when at the same time they hated Jehovah’s Son.  And so the way people reacted toward Jesus stripped them of their cloak.  His righteousness was the revelation of the righteousness of the Father, and therefore became the thing that condemned those who hated the Son.

Just as Noah’s preaching convicted the unbelieving world, so Christ’s testimony convicted those who hated Him.  He too, like Noah, was a Preacher of righteousness.  It was not He they hated, but His righteous Father.  He convicted them of the sin that had been hidden in their hearts.  This is what He accomplished in His life and walk.

Further, He “prepared an ark” of salvation through His death and resurrection.  Christ on Calvary was preparing an Ark to the saving of His house—the household of faith.  The cross of Christ provided salvation for the world.  All who enter this Ark enjoy this salvation.  At the same time the cross condemned the world.  For God has provided a Way now for man to escape from the clutches of sin and the wrath of God that is reserved for the disobedient.  He has dealt with the sin of man and provided a way for us all to be righteous.

And so just as Noah’s building the ark condemned the world, when Christ was crucified at Calvary God was pronouncing judgment upon the whole world.  It was the end of the world as far as God was concerned, the end of the world of sinful man and all he has built up—all his works, all his institutions, everything he has brought forth in order to build a world that centres upon himself and leaves God out.  For, Christ became an “ark” of salvation, a way of salvation, a way of escape from sin and its consequent judgment, to all who receive Him.

Nevertheless—and this is important—it is not till the Gospel of this salvation goes forth that God is just in bringing judgment.  God calls men to enter His Ark of salvation.  This is what hearing the Gospel is all about.  You wonder, then, to what extent this is presently taking place.  To what extent does the world around us hear the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ these days?

To what extent do they see it?  This is the thing that has gripped me for many years.  Hearing the Gospel is one thing.  What about seeing the Gospel?  “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk. 3.6).  This, I believe, is what God is preparing in this hour.  I believe God is preparing to reveal the Ark of His salvation in this hour.  How?  By building that Ark of salvation into the lives of His people!  Only then is God finally justified in bringing His judgments forth.  God would not be just in judging the world if there were not clear proof before their very eyes of His provision to escape sin and judgment.  He must bring upon people the conviction of sin that Jesus spoke of—and the conviction of righteousness He spoke of, and the conviction of judgment.  Before God can judge, people are going to have to look at Christians and be convicted that God has wrought righteousness– the very righteousness of Christ– in those who were former sinners.

This is the work of the Comforter—the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said that “when He is come He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn. 16.8).  Not only concerning sin, but concerning righteousness.  The Paraclete—that One whose Presence means Christ Himself has been called alongside you and I—will convict the world of righteousness!  He will demonstrate before the eyes of the world that these ones in whom He dwells are righteous with the Righteous One who has gone to the Father—and is yet still with us.  They will see our Righteousness before their very eyes, and be convicted.

And they will realize they are totally without excuse.  Now they will have no cloak for their sin.  For right before their eyes God has revealed that there is provision to walk before Him in perfect righteousness totally free of sin.  Those who see this will either repent… or be filled with a fearful forboding of judgment.  This is what Paul told the Philippians.  He said their adversaries, when they saw the Gospel peace and security the Philippians enjoyed—they had no fear in the midst of their persecutions—this was an evident token of their own perdition.

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God (Phil. 1.28).

Yes, it was all accomplished at Calvary.  But it is when the work of Calvary is fulfilled in the saints by the Holy Spirit that God is justified in releasing His judgments.

Even now every believer in Jesus is a testimony of a condemned world.  For, Christ at Calvary in saving sinners out of the world condemned the world.   Every believer who believes in Jesus is making a statement—that the Cross of Jesus Christ condemned this world—that this is a world under a sentence that was written at Calvary… but has not yet been fully carried out.

This “statement” is going to get louder and louder as the work of the Holy Spirit grows more pronounced in the lives of believers, and the holiness and righteousness of Christ is revealed in us.  Noah’s building the ark condemned the world and brought in the flood.   Our own walk can hasten the coming of the day of God.  And the sentence of Calvary will be carried out.

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation (conduct) and godliness,
Looking for and hasting unto (that is, expecting and hastening) the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (2 Pt. 3.12,13).

God has prepared a Day in which He will deal with all evil, all wickedness and sin and iniquity and rebellion.  We can hasten that Day, beloved.  The implication is that we can cause its delay.  Let us not be the cause of its delay.  Have we not seen enough of the pain and suffering that wickedness has caused in this troubled little planet we live in?

Get Into The Ark!

After I wrote last time about getting out of Sodom I read over the passage in Luke where Jesus talks about the days of the coming of the Son of man (Lk. 17.22-37).

Jesus said that the same day Noah entered into the ark, the flood came and destroyed them all.

And He said the same day Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.

That is, all those who were carrying on “business as usual.”  This is the emphasis of Jesus’ warning in both scenarios.   The majority of people were going about the ordinary activities of everyday life when Noah and his family were entering the ark, and Lot and his family were getting out of Sodom.

God did not rain down destruction on Sodom till Lot and his family got out of Sodom.

He did not bring the flood upon the world of the ungodly till Noah and his family had entered into the ark.

But in both cases as soon as this was accomplished destruction followed swiftly—the same day.

“So shall it be also in the days of the Son of man,” Jesus warns.  “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed (unveiled)” (Lk. 17.26,30).

…But reading this passage I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.  One involves getting out; the other entering in.

Getting out of Sodom is critical.  We must hasten our escape from Sodom at the peril of our lives.  But this is an emphasis that doesn’t give us the full picture of our need—nor of God’s wondrous provision of salvation in the day of judgment.  God had an ark for Noah and his family in the midst of great destruction.  He has an Ark for us today… and we must enter into that Ark.  What is this all about?

I think it’s very meaningful that God instructed Noah to pitch the ark within and without with pitch.  It’s the same word—kaphar—that is used for to make atonement.  It means simply to cover.  The same root is found in the word translated mercy seat in our English Bibles—kapporeth.   And this mercy seat, this Covering, is Christ Himself.

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God
Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (Gk. mercy seat, compare Heb. 9.5 where the same word is used) through faith in His blood… (Rom. 3.23-25).

So the ark typifies the atonement—God’s provision in Christ for sinners to be made righteous by faith, and thus saved from the wrath that is the inevitable desert of those who make a continual meal of ungodliness and refuse to push away from that table.

Peter bears witness to this view of the ark; he compares Noah’s flood to baptism, and the ark to God’s salvation in Christ.

…The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved by water.
The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and power being made subject unto Him (1 Pt. 3.20-22).

Peter likens the flood to a great baptism, and Noah’s ark to Christ’s salvation in that baptism.  He says God waited with much longsuffering in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared.  “Wherein (that is to say, in the ark) few… were saved by water.”  Those in the ark were saved in that great “baptism” of the flood… because of the ark.

But then Peter continues, “the like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us…”  Baptism, says Peter, is itself a figure, a “corresponding figure,” as Greek scholar W.E. Vine defines the word.  What is water baptism a figure of, then?  It’s a figure of our participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now note.  It is not baptism in water that saves us.  We are not saved by being baptized in water.  Water baptism is just a type, a figure, of the true baptism.  The true baptism, the real baptism, is baptism into Christ—into His death and resurrection.  This is where our salvation lies.  It is Christ who is our Ark of salvation.  It is Christ in whom the old man has been judged and totally done away with—crucified—and in whom the new man has come into being in resurrection life, a new man who is as righteous as God Himself.

And so we must be baptized into Christ in order to be saved from the wrath to come.  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16.16).  This is not a reference to water baptism.  It’s talking about the baptism that saves us—baptism into Christ.  Water baptism attests to this.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit initiates it.  The baptism of the Cross fulfills it.  (Remember, Jesus spoke of His pending Cross a baptism, Lk. 12.50.)

And so the writer of Hebrews tells us that Noah by building the ark became heir of the righteousness that is of faith (Heb. 11.7).  Noah heard God, and acted upon what he heard.  Building the ark was Noah’s great work of faith.  This resulted in his salvation.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Heb. 11.7).

I think we see in this passage a prophetic glimpse of Jesus Christ, who in His death and resurrection was preparing an ark to the saving of His house—the household of faith.  Christ Himself is our Ark of salvation—which we enter when we are baptized into Him in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In that instant we are new creatures in Christ; in that instant we are in the true Ark of God—and have confidence that we will be preserved through every trial and judgment to come…

…As we continue to submit to this baptism and abide in this Ark from day to day.  Our Ark will see us through all the “stormy waters” with rejoicing… as we continue to work the work of faith, resting in Him, trusting in Him, and obeying Him.  Those who are doing this are secure in the Ark.

This is the thing the writer of Hebrews is emphasizing—the obedience unto which we are called, the obedience of faith… which becomes the ark of our own salvation, as Noah’s obedience became.  There is a work of faith by which we, too, build an “ark” and enter it.  Many there are who carry on day in and day out just as the people did in the days of Noah.  Others are building an ark.  How?  By hearing what God is saying, and obeying.  This becomes our ark of salvation.  Yes, Christ Himself is the Ark.  But this daily ark building becomes our statement of faith—that we believe Jesus Christ to be the Ark of our salvation, the only Ark that is able to see us through what we have to go through today… and what is coming tomorrow.  Our patient day-by-day “work” on this ark is our statement that we believe God concerning things not seen as yet.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house…

Noah believed God… and he built that ark.  The proof that we believe is that we are doing the same thing.

And those who are not doing this?  This is what accounts for the sense of urgency in this hour.  Many are not doing this.  Our Lord urges, “Build that ark, get into the ark!”  It’s possible to be baptized in water and still not be in the Ark.  It’s possible to receive the initial baptism of the Holy Spirit and still not be prepared for what is before us because we are not submitting to the daily baptism of the Cross Jesus spoke of.  It’s possible to neglect our salvation.  Yes, Jesus built that Ark for us on Calvary.  Only He can atone for sin.  But the proof that we believe this is shown in our daily walk of faith with Him—we are taking up our cross and following Him.  We are abiding in Him, and in His yoke.  We are resting in Him.  We are listening for His Voice and obeying Him.

In this way we too are building that ark, and are entering it, and are ready for what is about to descend on our world, confident that right in the midst of the fires of the Day of the Lord there is no more secure place in the universe.

Get Out Of Sodom!

I don’t watch TV but the other day on the Internet news they were plugging a new program called GCB.  When I discovered what the letters stand for it turned my stomach.  The words came upon my heart, “The Lord will destroy this place.”  That’s what the angels told Lot when they sought to press upon him the urgency of the hour.  Destruction was at the door.  He needed to get out of that place!

For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it (Gen. 19.13).

There’s no doubt in my mind—hasn’t been for some time—that we live in Sodom.  Only the morally blind think otherwise.  This latest news just clinched it for me.  I understand that sordid lives make prime time entertainment here in Sodom.  Nothing new about that.    The new low of this latest offering on the idol altar of entertainment is that it’s about the so-called lives of so-called Christians.

Meaning that once again the beautiful holy name of Christ is trampled in the mire.

Don’t the men who put this kind of thing out have any fear?  Has God not said plain and clear that what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah was “an ensample to them that after should live ungodly?” (2 Pt. 2.6).  Yet you fly in the face of God, you people who are involved in this?  You continue to live ungodly?  I don’t know how the Lord is going to judge that area of the U.S. where they continue to spew out this vomit… but He is going to do it.  And I tremble to think of it.  It’s not without reason that David said, “Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake Thy law” (Ps. 119.53).

…And what about us who live in the midst of all this day in and day out?

Lot, Peter tells us, was “vexed with the filthy conversation (conduct) of the wicked” (2 Pt. 2.7).  The words are stronger in the Greek.  Lot was worn down, oppressed, with the licentious lives of the lawless.

For that righteous man dwelling among them in seeing and hearing vexed (tormented) his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds (2 Pt. 2.8).

Yet still Lot lingered—reluctant to leave.  His heart was entangled in Sodom.  The angels had to lay hold of him by the hand and pull him out, he and his family.  When finally they got them out, even then Lot’s wife looked back, still joined in her heart to the life she was leaving behind.

And she became a pillar of salt.

The story of Lot is, to me, one of the saddest in the Bible.  When it became necessary for him to part ways with Abraham he chose the well-watered plain of Sodom in spite of the fact that “the men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (Gen. 13.13).  It was prosperous there, and that appealed to him.  It seems he fit in quite well there.  He was even involved in their politics.  This is the implication of his sitting in the gate of Sodom (Gen. 19.1).  But from the look of it, Lot’s testimony apparently hadn’t created much conviction or conversion.  God had promised Abraham He would not destroy Sodom if He could find even ten righteous men there.

Do you look down on Lot for all this?  I think I have.  It kind of amazes me to read that Peter called him a righteous man.  But are not we Christians—whose righteousness consists of faith in Jesus—very much like Lot?  We too dwell in Sodom, and like Lot are vexed from day to day with what we see and hear.  That’s why I don’t watch TV.  It’s like looking for something clean in a garbage can.  A program you might think is okay… suddenly an unclean ad is in your face.

And now comes this GCB program.  It’s the Name of Christ in it that hit me so hard.  That hurt.  Oh, how the beautiful Name of Jesus Christ has been smeared on our day!  Why do these people put out this excrement?  I think maybe I know why.  It’s in vogue these days to put out programs the Christians will watch.  They know the Christians love to watch TV… and, ah, they’ve got money.  So the advertisers are calling for programs with a Christian theme now.  They’re realizing they’ve got to cater to the Christians if they want that money in their pockets.  So the story writers find a way to incorporate something Christian into the programs.  There’s big money in it.

And we are content enough to fork it out, it seems, not even realizing they’re mocking us.  Our eyes have been put out, like Samson, and we tread out the corn for the Philistines even as they mock us.  This new TV show brazenly mocks Christians.  What it amounts to is that Christ’s name is openly blasphemed.  For is it not His Name that is called upon us?  Are we not Christians—Christ-ones?

…But maybe there’s another reason—a harder one to acknowledge—why these people in the entertainment industry are putting out this kind of thing.  It’s what Malachi prophesied—that God would smear the excrement of His people over their own faces (Mal. 2.3).  There is hypocrisy among Christians.  And God is smearing it publicly to our shame now.  Seems it’s easy enough for Him to find those who love to do the smearing…

…And not quite as easy for Him to find those who feel the shame.  Many of us who love His Name feel the shame.  The reproaches of those who reproach Christ fall on us.  We cry to God for the abominations we see all around us (Ezek. 9.4).  Oh that more would join us!

God says, “My Name continually every day is blasphemed” (Isa. 52.5).  And it’s because of His own people that His Name is blasphemed.  “For the Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2.24).  That’s how it was back then among the apostate Jews… and that’s how has become once again among the apostate Christians.  Many of us hang our heads because of this, and many more ought to be hanging their heads.

But notice what God says immediately after this statement about His Name being blasphemed every day because of His people.

Therefore My people shall know My Name; therefore they shall know in that Day that I am He that doth speak: behold it is I (Isa. 52.6).

I long for this and anticipate it—that He who is jealous for His Name is going to cause His Name to be revealed again, as He has promised.  Things may be very dismal just now, but we have great hope!  Jesus said:

I have made known unto them Thy Name, and WILL make it known… (Jn. 17.26).

“I have made known unto them Thy Name…”  He was speaking of His days in the earth when in the midst of all that apostasy and hypocrisy He went about making the Father’s Name known—in righteousness, and holiness, and love, and mercy, and forgiveness, and healing.  It was a time when Jehovah’s name was greatly blasphemed because of the apostasy of His people.  Suddenly here was One who was making that Name known!

And He says He will do it again!  He says, “I WILL make it known…”  He is speaking of the sending of the Holy Spirit, whom He says “the Father will send in My Name” (Jn. 14.26).  Jehovah’s Name will be vindicated again… through those in whom the Holy Spirit of Christ abides!  Again there will be much love and mercy and forgiveness revealed.

But for those despise this love and mercy and forgiveness…

Behold, the Name of the LORD cometh from far, burning with His anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue as a devouring fire… (Isa. 30.27).

He is going to come in fire… with a burning word in the mouths of those who are jealous for His Name, and who are baptized in the Holy Ghost and fire.

And He is going to destroy this place—this Sodom and Gomorrah we live in—this licentious blasphemous “city,” and those in her who continually stick out their tongues at God.   Righteous Christian… get out of her!  Be not a partaker of her evil… or of her judgment.

How do we get out of her?   God knows how.  Trust God, and obey.  He knows how to deliver the godly out of the overthrow that is coming, at the same time meting out righteous judgment to those who thumb their noses at Him and consider this planet their own to do whatever they want in.

I tremble for what is before us.  I am grieved to the quick over the licentiousness and iniquity and blasphemy of our day.  How can God be feeling then?  Our God is a God of tremendous longsuffering and patience, and He is able to wait long—so long that most people think He has abandoned the planet.

But the God of longsuffering and patience is also a God who loves righteousness, and hates iniquity.  And He is going to put an end to it all.

The Eagle Comes To Church

Martin Collison who sometimes comments on A Mending Feast emailed me something recently which he quietly calls “a picture.”  He says it was “an impression stamped upon (his) mind,” which is akin to a vision, I would say.  (It’s an experience he has from time to time.)  In any case it strongly impacted my spirit, and I thought I would pass it along.

I had a picture come to me this week. I saw the lectern on the stage of a church; one of those stands that preachers rest their notes on. Then an eagle came down; swooped down and landed on the lectern. The presence of the eagle cut the atmosphere and it carried such spiritual authority. It brought certainty and definitiveness where there had been vacillation. Its authority could not be denied. Many in the congregation ran at its mere appearance on the scene even before it opened its mouth. I knew that the eagle was a symbol of the true prophet and it would tear down falsehoods within the church. Many would not want to hear the words he would speak so they ran for the exits.

I recognize this to be one of our greatest needs—if not our greatest need—the true authority of Christ in the churches.  There’s an old song that’s right in line with Martin’s “picture.”

Touch your people once again
With your precious holy hand, we pray;
Let your kingdom shine upon this earth
Through a living glorious church;
Not for temporary deeds,
But to restore authority and power:
Let a mighty rushing wind come in;
Touch your people once again.

How deeply we need this—the restoration of spiritual authority and power—this mighty rushing wind of the Holy Spirit that returns to us the authority of Christ.  Martin says the presence of this eagle “cut the atmosphere.”  It “carried such spiritual authority.”  In fact the eagle is one of the faces of Christ as portrayed in the cherubim (Ezek. 1.10).  And so when this “eagle” speaks all doubt disintegrates.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself has spoken… and all the place is pregnant with His authority.

Martin adds this:

I have been wondering recently whether we who are the Lord’s and seek to carry the fullness of the Kingdom are not yet fully aware of the contention of the enemy against us.

I wonder that myself.  I think we are largely unaware of the extent to which the Enemy resists us.  For certain, he has always resisted the coming forth of this kind of authoritative word—and will do so vehemently when it begins to break forth again.  I have seen it happen in the past, and I know we are going to see it again.  God’s adversary (and ours) is dead set against His authority.  In fact this is what he challenged from his beginning; it’s what garnered him the name change from Lucifer to Satan.

For thou hast said in thine heart, 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).

This is a glimpse into the rebellion among the angels that the Bible hints at in two or three places, and which the Serpent succeeded in contaminating the family of man with.  As a result we see this same Satanic resistance to the true authority of God all through history—as when Pharaoh decreed the destruction of the newborn Hebrews… as when Herod the Great did the same thing at Bethlehem of Judaea, seeking to wipe out any chance of the true king of Israel coming to the throne of David… as when Ahab’s daughter Athaliah sought to destroy all the seed royal out of Judah (2 Chr. 22.10).

We see it also in Satan’s resistance to the true prophetic word—as in Jezebel’s campaign to exterminate the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18.4).  Ultimately she zeroed in on the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19.2).  Her husband Ahab went along with her in all this—reluctantly no doubt, but too weak willed to resist her.  We see the same spirit at work when Herodias sought the head of John the Baptist.  Her husband Herod, again reluctantly, went along with her too.  And we see this same “Jezebel” in The Revelation riding upon a scarlet-coloured beast “drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17.6).  “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints…” (Rev. 18.24).  She who calls herself a prophetess—and Christ reproved the church of Thyatira for going along with her—is thirsty for the blood of the prophets.  For she stands against the true word of God—the testimony of Jesus Christ.  It is the Spirit of prophesy that is hated—the testimony of Jesus Christ.

And for this very reason the church must be this “lectern” Martin saw with the eagle upon it.  The church must have this prophetic Testimony, this authoritative word, with the presence of the eagle permeating all.  I believe it is a corporate thing, this eagle, and not just one man.  Paul called for the earnest prayers of the saints at Ephesus that he might have liberty to declare the word of God boldly—and make known the “mystery of the Gospel” (Eph. 6.18).  He, the mighty apostle, could not function independently.  He’d been given the revelation of the body of Christ on the Damascus Road, and ever after he recognized his need for the other members of that Body.  He was continually calling for the prayers of the saints.  He needed their support as Moses needed Aaron and Hur to stay up his arms.  Yes, it was Paul’s mouth the word went forth from, but it was a joint operation of the body of Christ that enabled it.  Paul sought the same thing from the Colossians, “that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds…” (Col. 4.3).

I believe we are going to see this eagle in church again—this kind of authoritative word, this kind of anointing.  But let us be ready for the consequences.  The Enemy does not take kindly to this kind of Gospel going forth—the kind in which the eyes of sinful men are opened to see what the mystery of Christ is all about.  The true Gospel of Christ is a very powerful Gospel, a high and far-reaching Gospel.  It’s a Gospel that must go forth in the power and authority of the eagle.  And when it does there is going to be prey for her young ones.

Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she (Job. 39.27-30).

Lord, open our eyes!  How near-sighted we have become, and blind!  No wonder our young people are in the condition they are in—worldly minded, with little or no interest in spiritual things.  Can they be blamed?  What kind of Gospel do we have for them?  We must have more for them than games and pizza on Friday nights at the church—along with a little side of MacWord, as a friend calls it.  Oh, you protest, but how else can we get them in?  We’ve got to give them games and pizza… and the heavy metal rock music they’re into, or their reggae, or even magicians if necessary, and clowns to entertain them.  Anything to get them to come!  So we can slip in that little gospel MacWord on the side.

Here’s another way to get them to come.  Shut all that down, and cry out like this: Jesus, call your eagles to church—those who dwell and abide upon the Rock, and whose eyes see into the distances of the Spirit… and bring nigh what they see afar off!  Then there will be prey for our young ones—the mystery of Christ—the revelation of God in once-fallen man.  Then there will be young eagles growing up in our midst—a whole new kind of young people!

And our Adversary the Devil will have to cope with the consequences.

Stay In Intercession Mode

Just as I finished the last blog entry the light bulb went on.  I realized that the complaining psalmist struggling with diffidence was actually in intercession mode, if I can call it that.  Yes, he was complaining.  He had a lot of questions, as I do myself.

Will the Lord cast off forever?  Will he be favourable no more?  Is His mercy clean gone forever?  Doth His promise fail for evermore?  Hath God forgotten to be gracious?  Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?

But was he nursing these questions as a charge against God?  I don’t think so.  He was crying out his questions in intercession to God.

This kind of cry of intercession is all over the Bible.

O God, why hast Thou cast us off forever?  Why doth Thine anger smoke against the sheep of Thy pasture? (Ps. 74.1).

Is the psalmist doubting God?  The danger to doubt is always there, of course, in times when God is silent, in times when He has hidden His face.  But such times are also an opportunity to come before God in intercession.

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.
Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves (Ps. 80.5).

Is the psalmist actually charging God with being angry with our prayers?  Not at all.  He’s seeking to provoke God… to stir Him to action.  For there is no way God is angry with the prayers of His people.  Exactly the opposite.  And when we remember that it is God Himself who inspired this psalm we realize that He is actually encouraging us here to continue to come before Him in prayer and intercession when things seem very dismal and desolate!

Many there are who are more or less content with things these days in spite of the fact that we (the church, I mean) have terribly failed to stem the tide of darkness that has come in upon us.  Not so this psalmist.  He is alarmed at the state of things!  He can’t take it any longer.  He cries out.  He sees the true condition of things.  And he boldly cries out his questions to the Lord.

His cry is the cry of the watchman.  We who in this hour have upon us the calling of the watchman must gird ourselves with all the spiritual strength we can lay hold of to be faithful and not buckle under in the face of what we see.  It is overwhelming, the onslaught of darkness of this hour.  But we must not give in to doubt, to mistrust, to lack of confidence—to diffidence.  Our agony for God… the darkness that presses hard upon us… our awareness of the true condition of a church that sees herself rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing when she is actually poor and wretched and blind and miserable and naked… we can go under because of all these things.   And do go under at times.  We must do fierce combat with diffidence because of them.  How can we engage this combat?  By recognizing that it is GOD Himself who has called us to the difficult calling of the watchman!  It is God Himself who has pressed this burden upon us, and we must be faithful to carry it before Him till He answers the cry of the watchman.

And if He has called us in this calling, He will sustain us in it as well.

Look at Psalm 89, the psalm of another watchman.  It’s written by Ethan the Ezrahite.  It begins with a declaration of the faithfulness of the Lord.

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness to all generations.

Seven times Ethan speaks of the faithfulness of the Lord, of His mercy and truth, of His Covenant.  He fills his psalm with great promises all prophetic, I believe, of the ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Throne of God.

For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever:  Thy faithfulness shalt Thou establish in the very heavens.
I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David My servant, Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations…

I have loved this psalm for years, have read it often.  But more and more of late I come to the “Selah” at the end of Verse 37, and don’t want to read any further.  In fact at times I have had to close my Bible.  It’s been too hard to read the next ten or so verses—gut wrenching, in fact.  I read it and am frightened.  For, in the first part of the psalm he has spoken of God’s great unfailing faithfulness.  But now?

Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground.

In the first part he says, “I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him” (vs. 22).  And then in the latter part, “Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; Thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice” (vs. 42).

Again in the first part, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips” (vs. 34).  But later in verse 39, “Thou hast made void the covenant of Thy servant: Thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.”

And so in the face of this great, this grievous contradiction, Ethan cries out, “How long, LORD?  Wilt Thou hide Thyself forever?  Shall Thy wrath burn like fire?”

This is the burden the watchman carries—to see the utter failure of the promises of God, to see total contradiction… and carry that contradiction in intercession before the Lord.

For thirty-seven verses God declares over and over again His great faithfulness.  I’ll set my faithfulness in the very Heavens, He says.  I will put David’s throne THERE:  “It shall be established forever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven” (vs. 37).  Over and over again God declares it: His faithfulness will not fail.

And then what?  Utterly the opposite!  His faithfulness seems to fail!  You said, Lord, “My covenant will I not break…”  But what’s this? “Thou hast made void the covenant of Thy servant.”

Is not this the way things seem to have turned out in this hour?  Where is God’s promised faithfulness?

But let’s keep reading.   When this is our experience we must betake ourselves to the last verses of this psalm.

Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servants…”

Here is where we discover the sustaining power in this very hard state of things.  “The reproach of Thy servants,” Ethan says.  We are serving our God in carrying this reproach.  It is His own reproach, actually.  We carry this burden with Him— that the days of the right hand of the Most High seem to have failed.  And we let that reproach do in us what God intended it to do:  to try us by fire, to break us, to humble us… and to prepare us for the glory that is about to be revealed.  It’s precious to discover that those who carry this kind of burden are doing so not because they are out of touch with God, or have somehow lost their way.  The reproach has come upon them because they are obedient.  They are walking in the footsteps of His Anointed One.

Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servants, how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD, wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of Thine Anointed.

So… it’s a very powerful psalm.  We’re given a powerful promise of God’s faithfulness… followed by a picture in which the bottom has dropped right out of things.  God would warn us, and by warning us, seek to prepare us.  He says there comes a time in His purposes when His purposes—and His faithfulness—will seem to have failed.  We must gird on our armour for this brothers and sisters—and stay awake!  It is a time of great difficulty, great perplexity.  But the faithful God is still at work.  There is great purpose in this time, and we must trust Him in it.

For, it is the prelude to a mighty display of His power and unfailing faithfulness.  Many will cry out then, as we ourselves will, “Great is Thy faithfulness.”  Let us do so even now.  Blessed are those who continue to trust Him in this time, and watch faithfully in their watch—and stay in intercession mode.

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