Author Archives: Allan Halton

Beware The Dread Asbestos

In a recent Zoom gathering, host Peter Boyle began by quoting an excerpt from the journal of Jim Elliot, a young missionary who was martyred with four others in Ecuador in 1956:

He makes His ministers a flame of fire. Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of “other things.” Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this O my soul—short life? In me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. And He has promised baptism with the Spirit and fire. “Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

(The last sentence is a line from an Amy Carmichael poem; the quotation itself is from Shadow of the Almighty, the biography that Jim Elliot’s wife Elisabeth later wrote in which she draws extensively from his journals.)

It was one of those “God-incidences” that the brother who was about to deliver the message in the Zoom gathering—David Meeten, an elder in a fellowship in the United Kingdom—had intended to read this very quotation as integral to his message. David, as he told us when he began to speak, was much encouraged with this confirmation of the message he had in mind to share with us; surely God was speaking to us, for here was a second witness confirming it.

David goes on to speak of Moses’ meeting with God at the burning bush, which, though it burned with fire, was not consumed. What an enigma. Moses, now no more than a wilderness bush himself, just had to investigate “this great sight”… with the result that we shortly discover and are dismayed at what a Consuming Fire in a wilderness bush can accomplish.

The message is entitled Presence, Purity, Passion. I found it very moving, as much for the brokenness in which it was delivered as for its content. One of the brothers commenting afterwards said it had given to his eyes refreshing tears. He had in mind a line from an old hymn, “Give to mine eyes refreshing tears, Give to my heart chaste, hallowed fires…” I too was broken up afterward. Oh, the longing for the fire of the holy love of God to burn in me. Continually.

And oh, I tremble concerning the dread asbestos of “other things.” “Quench not the Spirit” Paul exhorts (1 Thes 5:19 KJV). The New English Translation (NET) has, “Do not extinguish the Spirit.” That’s what asbestos does. That’s what “the lusts of other things” entering into the heart can do to the fire of the Spirit of God.

Jesus with great yearning told His disciples, “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! (Lk 12:49 NKJV). The hour He was yearning for came when on the day of Pentecost that fire fell from Heaven on the waiting disciples, kindling them into fires that He sent into all the earth. It is ablaze yet, this fire… but the “dread asbestos” that abounds in our world has quenched it all too often.

It is a fire that must be continually guarded in the heart—guarded, and stirred and fed. It was William Booth of the Salvation Army who said this. “It is the nature of fire to go out. It needs to be stirred, and fed, and the ashes carried out.”

And so we find Paul exhorting Timothy:

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands (2 Tim 1:6 NKJV).

Or, as the English Standard Version has it, “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” The Charles Williams paraphrase brings out the present tense in this word: “For this reason I now remind you to rekindle and keep burning the fire of the divine gift which came upon you when I laid my hands upon you.”

This is confirmed by Greek scholar A.T. Robertson. He says “stir up” is “present active infinitive” denoting continuous action. Transliterated, the Greek is “anazopureo” which Robertson breaks down into “ana [up or again] and zo-puron, a live coal; zo-os [live] and pur [fire] then the bellows for kindling; to rekindle, to stir into flame, to keep blazing (continuous action, present time), only here in N.T.”

The “gift of God,” then—the Spirit of God, His unspeakable gift—is a live coal, and He manifests Himself in various ways. This is what the gifts, the charismata, are—manifestations, glowings, shinings forth in you and me—of the live coal of the Spirit of God Himself.

O that in me the sacred fire
Might now begin to glow,
Burn up the dross of base desire
And make the mountains flow.
(Charles Wesley)

He is given by God; that is God’s part—to give the Spirit. Our part is to guard this Fire and not quench it. Not that the Spirit comes and goes, comes and goes; Jesus promised that the Paraclete would abide with us forever (Jn 14:16). But how often He is quenched, stifled, rendered inactive, and must be rekindled into flame. And so our prayer, this again from Wesley:

Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
To work and speak and think for Thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up Thy gift in me.

Let us do this, brothers and sisters, and by the mercies of God present ourselves once again and continually a living sacrifice to God. It is upon the whole burnt offering, the continual burnt offering on the altar of the Cross, that the fire of God falls and consumes it. This is the cry of my own heart once again in this hour. I urge you to join me, dear brothers and sisters; let us be broken before Him with great yearnings to see that Holy Fire of God again in our day—His very Presence, Purity, Passion—and so His Power.

…How can I help but quote the whole hymn?

O Thou Who camest from above,
The pure celestial fire to impart,
Kindle a flame of sacred love
On the mean altar of my heart.

[“Mean” here is not “malicious” but “worthy of little regard.”]

There let it for Thy glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze,
And trembling to its source return,
In humble prayer and fervent praise.

Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
To work and speak and think for Thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up Thy gift in me.

Ready for all Thy perfect will,
My acts of faith and love repeat,
‘Til death Thy endless mercies seal,
And make my sacrifice complete.

Please pray with me.

Oh, Lord… when Isaiah saw You, saw Your glory, he was utterly undone, and cried out, “Woe is me,” for he was a man of unclean lips and dwelt in the midst of a people of unclean lips… and one of the seraphim, the Burning Ones, took with tongs from the altar a live coal—it was too hot and too holy for this Burning One to touch—and placed it on Isaiah’s lips, taking away his iniquity and purging his sin. Oh, Lord, put that live coal in my very heart, mean though it is, and there let it for Thy glory ever burn.

…Because, Lord, I know I am not shining as I need to shine and long to shine in this world of darkness; I feel so often like that smouldering wick Isaiah wrote of… and so I’m thankful, dear Lord, for Your faithful promise, as David reminded us at the conclusion of his message, that “the smoking flax You will not quench,” but will do whatever You need to do to cause it to burn brightly for Your glory. May I myself, then, be mindful to cooperate with You, and not by my own doing, or undoing, quench this holy fire. Amen.

On Becoming A Real Human Being

I’ve been following with great interest the present revival—I use that term loosely, it’s also being called an awakening, an outpouring, a move of the Spirit—that began at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, and has since spread to other Christian colleges. It’s so good to hear some good news these days, especially that this began among young Christians, college students simply longing for more of God. Reports of the revival mentioned that a similar revival had happened at Asbury back in 1970. This got me reminiscing; it seemed to me that the 1970 Asbury revival had to be called a revival in the midst of a revival.

Fellow oldsters will know what I mean. In the days of my youth back in the mid-1960s a revival among young people was gaining momentum. It also began in the United States; the young people involved were called hippies. Their world had betrayed them—the arms race, the threat of nuclear war, Viet Nam… Why be a part of a world like that? It was all so pointless. So they dropped out of their world with slogans like “Make love, not war.” “Flower power.” “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” They cast off restraint and gave themselves to free love, marijuana, LSD… They had found a watershed that left their world behind, they had discovered a river of powerful music heading in the opposite direction, and they decided to just “go with the flow”. No, this was not the revival I have in mind; the hippie movement only prepared the way for the revival that happened.

It happened because many of those who had crossed the great divide into hippie land discovered that the chasm of emptiness was still there, in fact was even deeper now. And who alone can fill this void, but Jesus Christ? Thus, out of the hippie movement a new movement was birthed, this one a move of the Spirit. And the world began to hear of the Jesus people, and the Jesus revolution.

I never quite made the grade as a hippie, I was only a wannabe. I remember once when I was hitchhiking home to the Crowsnest Pass from university—this would have been in ‘66 or ’67—a car heading south stopped for me on the outskirts of Calgary. There were four in the car, young men my age; they were headed to California, they said. (It seemed everyone my age was going to California in those days.) They talked about Jesus as we drove along; I mean they couldn’t talk about anything else, and they were going to California to tell the hippies about Jesus, and they invited me to come with them. There was something about these guys, I felt so drawn to go with them, almost compelled. But how could I? I was in university. They dropped me off at the Fort Macleod junction and continued on their way south to the U.S. border. I watched them drive away, kind of envying them and feeling I was missing out. But another car heading west was coming up. I put out my thumb.

I recall another time hitchhiking home from Calgary. (I hitchhiked a lot in those days.) An elderly couple on their way back to High River stopped for me. The car was old, yet in remarkably good shape. I got into the back seat and thanked them, and after a bit asked the man what make the car was, and the year. He said it was a 1948 something-or-other—I can’t remember the make. What I remember is the impression I had of this couple. There was something about them. They were old, yet still very much in a young couple’s love. They held hands across the seat as they drove along, the woman turning to me and talking, and the man talking too as he drove along. They were so… so warm toward me. So loving. There was something else about them. They had such a joy about them. They almost seemed to have light in their eyes. After a while they asked me if I knew Jesus. I don’t recall how I responded, for I didn’t know Him. They smiled so warmly and the elderly lady gave me a tract to take with me as they dropped me off at the High River turnoff.

So… by young and old while I was hitchhiking, seeds were lodged in my young heart… though they lay dormant there for a time.

But it wasn’t too many years before those dormant seeds began to germinate. My own life had collapsed into ruins about me. And who better can build a life out of ruins than Jesus? So… even though I had not been a bona fide hippie, and was only on the fringe of the Jesus people movement, He’d also been drawing me to Himself—even as far back as my childhood, I have since come to recognize—and now at last, a very lost and very empty young man, I finally went to my knees one night and responded. That was in 1971.

A hippie-styled Jesus even made the cover of Time Magazine in June, 1971 under the banner The Jesus Revolution. This wasn’t a new idea back then, nor is it now; something like a hundred years earlier William Booth of the Salvation Army had penned a hymn: “Thou Christ of burning, cleansing flame, send the fire, send the fire, send the fire… The revolution now begin…”

But is it a coincidence that in these days of a fresh move of the Spirit of God, a new movie called The Jesus Revolution is making quite a stir? A young friend of mine has seen it; she says it is “definitely worth seeing… very much what people need to focus on after the last few years.” I think I’d like to see this, but apparently it’s only being shown in theatres at this time, so because of my poor health I’ll have to wait till it’s available to watch at home. Meanwhile, I got reminiscing, as I said, and found quite a bit of footage about the Jesus movement on YouTube.

Another video I found is a gathering decades later of the some of the musicians from among the Jesus people. I didn’t know many of them, but I much appreciated their grace and humility. They hadn’t been trying to break into the “Christian music industry,” they just wanted to sing the songs of their first love for Jesus. I recognized Annie Herring, whose Easter Song (He Is Risen) was sung so powerfully by Keith Green. At about the one hour mark I listened to the testimony of Terry Clark, “a Jesus music pioneer,” as he has been called. I didn’t know of him, wasn’t familiar with his music. But I want to share his testimony, which I found deeply moving.

Clark began by giving some background. He was born in 1946 (the year of my own birth). Yet he wasn’t involved in the first years of the Jesus Movement because at that time, he went on to say, “I had been in the U.S. military in ’68, ’69, ’70, ’71 in northern Thailand close to the border of Laos and Cambodia. I had gone through some real traumatic changes. There was also this breaking inside. I just checked out. There was really no redeeming piece of evidence, there was no way that human existence could be justified. I made the conclusion, stepped over the little picket fence into ___ [couldn’t get this word] that night, embarrassed, totally humiliated, that I was a human being, because of all that I’d been, all that I’d seen human beings do, all that I’ve been a participator in. Of course when you throw off any kind of responsibility of being a human being, then you have no restraint, and so when you do that, pretty soon they come in the white jackets and take you away. So they came in the white jackets, and of course they had to put clothes on me and everything, because, you know, there’s no restraint there either, no reason to wear clothes if you’re not a human being. But they took me to the hospital in Munich, to the mental ward, and did all their tests, and their diagnosis was actually ‘no hope’, they decided the psychosis was too deep because I’d seen death close to me, people I loved, people I cared for, in fact I had to care for their bodies, things like that, in northern Thailand, and, they found that [my condition] was really based in this traumatic turn that I had made in my thinking, and that I would never recover.”

[At this point in his testimony, Clark goes on to speak of an encounter he had with Jesus while still in the mental ward in Munich.]

He continued, “Jesus said, ‘Terry, I know how you feel. You know, I’ve seen everything human beings have ever done. But I want you to understand the difference in our response to that. You’ve decided not to be a human being. And I decided to become one.’

“And then He… He took my emptied-out shell, and flooded me, drowned me, in how He feels toward human beings. It crushed me, it drowned me, it… and I figured it’s probably just a glimpse of how He feels toward human beings. But it was enough to almost kill me, just from His passion toward us as His prized creation, His family, His children.

“But needless to say, they issued a new diagnosis. And where it said, ‘no hope’ before, now it said ‘recovering satisfactorily.’”

What a powerful testimony. That laid hold of me—“You’ve decided not to be a human being. And I decided to become one.”

I’m thankful for the present revival among Christian college students. I pray they will take it beyond their schools—how deep the need for a move of the Spirit beyond those boundaries, a move that reaches and releases the multitudes of young people captive in deep darkness. So much sexual confusion. The sexual revolution of the ‘60s was a Sunday school picnic compared to now. Now they’re being taught they can even decide for themselves what sex they are. It’s part of the whole “woke” agenda conceived by the Prince of darkness. His darkness is now called light, and light darkness. It’s engulfing a whole generation. Their lives are their own, they can live their lives as they see fit. Or throw them away. For what is life? Something to play with. For what else is there? I’m especially burdened for those who are caught in a culture of drug abuse. In my own locale I hear again and again of another young person dying of an fentanyl overdose. And this is happening all over. Satan knew what he was doing, where he was going, when he turned the hippie generation on to drugs. A dear friend tells me that the graveyard on his reservation is filling up with the graves of young people. Life is cheap to them, it seems. They have so little to live for. They throw away their lives for naught.

…Where are the words?

…Please pray with me.

…Thank You, Jesus, thank You. We cry unto You, Lord. More and more of our young people are asking the same questions some of us asked in our youth—what’s this all about, this world I live in? They see what’s going on in their world, and they see what’s in their own hearts, as we ourselves have seen, and all too often with anguish they too are ashamed to be called human beings. Yet You saw it all, and more, Lord, yet did not turn Your back on us, did not abandon us to the depths of our depravity, our sin, but turned toward us, became one of us, became a human being, going so far as to be made sin for us, going so far as to become unrecognizable as a man, as the prophet Isaiah foresaw: “Your visage was marred more than any man, and Your form more than the sons of men…” Why did You do this, Lord, what love is this? It was because the image of God in man had more and more become unrecognizable. So You took that upon Yourself, that You might make lost human beings to be like You. Like You—the very image of God. You, the Son God, became a human being, a man, that men and women may become like You—sons and daughters of God. So, we pray, we cry… move among our young people in this hour of terrible darkness, Lord, rescue them, that they may turn from darkness to Light, from the power of Satan to God, so that instead of “checking out,” instead of living a life unto themselves without purpose, they may give themselves to You as You gave Yourself to us, and return to You the love that led You to Calvary’s cross on our behalf, that we might become the kind of human being that none in heaven or earth can be ashamed of.  Amen.









The Gospel Of True Prosperity

What is written here is my desire, and the Lord’s desire, for you, dear reader: a blessed and happy and prosperous New Year. Here is my assurance, and His, as to how this may be, year in and year out all the days of our life:

It is wonderful comfort to me that seated at the right hand of the throne of God is a Man to whom God had committed the doing of all His will, and that this Man while on earth accomplished all that God had given Him to do. And now, seated higher than the heavens at God’s right hand, this Man continues to do His will, and prospers in all He does.

This Man is the Servant of whom ancient prophecy spoke:

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (Isa 53:10 KJV)

Even so it came to pass, and this is beyond precious, that in Calvary’s cross this Man, fully committed to His Father’s will at the cost of His own life, accomplished His Father’s will. The pleasure of the LORD prospered in His hand—in what He did, what He accomplished.

This Man is the great King of whom David the king was prophetic:

Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:
With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him. (Ps 89:19-21 KJV)

Note those words again—“with whom my hand shall be established…” What God wanted done would get done.

This next verse is also prophetic of Him:

The LORD has sought for himself a man after his own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as Commander-in-Chief over his people… (1 Sam 13:14 ISV)

Those two prophecies come together in a message the apostle Paul delivered in Antioch in Pisidia:

…He did raise up to them David for king, to whom also having testified, he said, I found David, the son of Jesse, a man according to My heart, who shall do all My will. (Acts 13:22 YLT)

Will here is the plural thelemata—wills—which the International Standard Version brings out:

Then God removed Saul and made David their king, about whom he testified, ‘I have found that David, the son of Jesse, is a man after my own heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ (Acts 13:22 ISV)

Thus, in the fulfillment of ancient prophecy, the Son of God—this Man who ever delighted in the will His Father—went to the Cross in the will of His Father, accomplishing our redemption. For this, God raised Him up, and exalted Him to His right hand, where now seated He continues to do the One Thing that delights His Father’s heart—doing His will. Thus the Father’s “hand” is established, accomplished. For, with His holy enabling Oil He has anointed Him, and His arm has strengthened Him.

I am saying dear brothers and sisters who love the will of God, that the will of God is given primarily to the Son of God to do and fulfill, and the simplicity of our own walk is in doing the will of God as He who is seated on the throne of God does His will. Nothing this Anointed One did while on earth failed, the pleasure of the LORD prospered in His hand. And nothing He now does while seated at the right hand of Power can fail, because the power and authority of the Throne of God Himself is in what He does.

So then, how do you and I become participants in His unfailing doing of God’s will? By the Holy Spirit—His own anointing, which abides in us. “The same anointing” (1 Jn 2:27). He has given us His Holy Spirit to join us to Himself to this very intent—that, now one with Him, we may do the will of God as He does the will of God. This is our rest, our victory. Our prosperity. For, be assured that whatever He does prospers. Our own prosperity, then, our success, our victory, lies in the doing of His will. We are to do His will—that is our part—and leave all else to Him.

Unfailing fruitfulness

Notice what Paul writes to the Colossians. This is a church he had never personally visited, but he had heard the good report of their faith in Christ Jesus and their love toward all the saints. So he writes:

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God… (Col 1:9,10)

Fruitful in everything we do? How can this be? It begins with knowing His will. If we are to please God, if this is truly the one desire that motivates us, the knowledge and understanding of His will is essential. Without knowing His will, how can we walk worthily of the Lord, how can we please Him? God knows this, and so we may trust and anticipate that, for His part, He will cause us to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We can count on that. Our part? To walk in His will. “That ye may walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing…” With what result? Being fruitful… occasionally? Hit and miss? No, “being fruitful in every good work,” in everything we do. Doing the will of God, abiding in the will of God—that is, in His rest—means abiding fruitfulness, unfailing fruitfulness, and growth unto the full knowledge of God.

Along this line I have been meditating on Psalm 1. Here are the first three verses:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Ps 1:1-3 KJV)

Again, this is the result of delighting in the living law and will of God, meditating therein day and night, and discovering therein the “River of water of life,” which, because it is unceasing in its flow from the Throne of God, means vibrant life instead of wilting—regardless how hot it is—and unfailing fruit in its season. That is to say, spiritual prosperity. How much of what he does shall prosper? “And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

Prosperity, success

These words in Psalm 1 are so close to a passage in Joshua that one cannot help thinking that David (if it was David who wrote Psalm 1) had been reading Joshua when he wrote this. Here are those verses from Joshua:

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (Josh 1:8 KJV)

This was God’s promise to Joshua concerning the commandment God had charged him with to see to it that the children of Israel possessed the inheritance He had given them.
Moses first had enjoined this upon all the people just prior to their entry into Canaan:

Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do. (Deut 29:9 KJV)

We too are bound in covenant relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour, who is the mediator of the covenant. Seated at the right hand of God, He will not fail to fulfill that covenant in the lives of His own. He is our Joshua, and He will see to it that we possess the lot of our inheritance in God. That is His part of the covenant. That is God’s will for Him. He will not fail to accomplish that will. Let us then, for our part, give ourselves to meditating in the Law of the Covenant. In the midst of every difficult situation we find ourselves in, we may rest in Him who is seated upon the Throne, and who without fail will fulfill all the will of God. Our part is simply to abide in that will, and do what He is doing.

What a wonderful recipe for success, isn’t it. But what if there has been failure? If there has been failure, it is not the failure of Him who sits in the throne of God doing the will of God. Neither is it the failure of those who have ceased from themselves and from their own works and strivings, putting their trust entirely in Him and simply doing His will—which cannot fail. That is the rest, the inheritance, of those who believe Him. “For we who have believed do enter that rest” (Heb 4:3 NKJV). Have we failed in that? It is for us, then, to believe Him afresh, and return to His rest. His rest is our rest. Our inheritance. “For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his” (Heb 4:10 ASV).

Let us believe, beloved. Let us continue to believe. If we have entered into His rest, if we have ceased from our own works and entered His rest, ALL that we do shall prosper, because all that HE does prospers. You and I shall prosper and be fruitful in every good work. We shall abound in every good work, just as Jesus, who said He came to do the will of Him who sent Him. He did just that, He did the will of His Father, and He did not fail. He abode in His Father, and in His will, and He did not fail. Nor yet shall fail. Neither shall we fail who come to Him and abide in Him who cannot fail. We too shall prosper and have good success.

Groanings Too Deep For Words

Please listen to this song; may it prepare your heart for the message that follows.

That is so moving, isn’t it. Here’s the chorus:

Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Give heed to my groaning heart,
Hearken unto the sound of my cry.
My king and my God,
To you will I pray,
O Lord hear me in the morning each day.
I prepare my sacrifice and wait for You.

Those words, “Give heed to my groaning heart…” I want to share with you something about groanings, God’s own groanings… our groanings… the groanings of creation… But first let me give some background to the words of the song. It’s an adaptation of Psalm 5, which I am familiar with in the King James Version:

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.
Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

Here is the English Standard Version for the same verses:

Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

And here is The Passion Translation for verse 3:

At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.

So the picture before our eyes is of the psalmist laying his sacrifice in order on the altar, at the same time asking God to hear his prayer, his meditation—his groaning, as the Hebrew word implies. He waits then for the fire of God to consume the sacrifice. This assures him that his sacrifice has been received and is a sweet fragrance to God, and therefore his prayer ascending with the smoke of the sacrifice has been heard, and he watches with anticipation for God’s answer.

Old Testament commentators Keil and Delitzsch in their Commentary on the Old Testament bear this up. (Please see endnote.)

So it looks like the English Standard Version has rendered correctly the original Hebrew of Psalm 5.

Now for the interpretation of this picture in the language of the New Covenant. As we lay in order the living sacrifice of our lives upon the altar of the cross, we lift up to God our prayer, our longing, our groaning, and look to Him with undoubting anticipation for His answer, which will come down to us as surely as the fragrance of the sacrifice and the incense of the prayer ascend up to Him.

Now back to our song. “Give heed to my groaning heart.” You mean, God hears the groaning heart? Yes. As assuredly as the sacrifice of Christ on the altar of the cross ascended to God an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling fragrance, and as our own living sacrifice is identified with His, He hears.

The groaning of creation

In Romans Chapter 8 Paul in three places writes of groanings. The first place is in verse 22. I’ll quote it from verse 18 to give the context. This is from the English Standard Version:

 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
8:21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

It doesn’t take very good hearing these days to hear the groaning of creation; we hear it round about us every day. The whole creation is in the bondage of corruption groaning and labouring together in the pains of birth, waiting, waiting, waiting for deliverance. Paul wrote that in his day he could hear those groanings, and in our day we hear them as well—the only difference being that the labour pains are getting more intense and closer and closer together.

But if a creation is groaning in the pains of labour, what do you suppose will be born?

A new creation. And this is why Paul says that when God subjected the old creation to futility, He did so in hope.

The groaning of the saints

Just after this Paul continues:

8:23  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
8:24  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
8:25  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience [or, perseverance, as the NKJV has it].

There again we find groaning. And there again is that word hope. Not only is the creation groaning, but the saints themselves, who have received the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly, groan within themselves, waiting, waiting in hope for something—the adoption, the redemption of the body—the release of the body, the glorious liberty of the children of God which will result in the whole creation being liberated from the bondage of corruption. What a glorious hope, which, though we see it not yet, we patiently and confidently await it.

Paul says much the same thing in 2 Corinthians:

5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
5:2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,
5:3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.
5:4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Cor 5:1-5 ESV)

What Paul calls here the guarantee (NKJV the earnest) he calls in Romans 8 the firstfruits. The Spirit Himself is the guarantee, the Spirit Himself is the firstfruits, the assurance of the harvest to come. In Corinthians Paul writes that “in this tent [our mortal body] we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,” which is what he calls in Romans 8 “the adoption, the redemption of the body,” for which those who have received the firstfruits (namely, the Spirit) groan. The confidence we have is that God has wrought us for this very thing, and has given us the Spirit as His guarantee while we wait. But not only does the completion of our redemption depend upon this, the whole creation waits for it. So God will not be remiss in fulfilling this hope. He is covenant bound to do so—as He was in redeeming Israel from Egyptian bondage:

And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. (Ex 2:23,24)

Just as surely as God made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and began to fulfill it in the day when He heard their groaning cry and brought them out of Egypt, He has made a covenant which in its summation is His Son, and which therefore cannot be fulfilled short of the redemption of our body. For this, then, we groan… and wait expectantly.

The groaning of the Spirit

And during this waiting the Spirit likewise groans, making intercession on behalf of the groaning saints. This is the third place in Romans 8 where we find this word groaning.

8:26  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
8:27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Some of us are more familiar with the King James Version’s “groanings which cannot be uttered.” Groanings beyond the ability of words to express.

Do we understand what is happening here—“the Spirit himself intercedes for us”? This is not saying that the Spirit is making intercession for the saints alone and nobody else in the world, but rather, as the word means, “on behalf of” the saints who are praying. The saints are praying, yet do not know what they should pray for as they ought to. That is their weakness. And so the Spirit joins Himself to their weakness and makes intercession on their behalf. Their intercession becomes infused with the very groanings of the Spirit… and He who searches and knows the heart knows what is the mind of the Spirit—He understands what the groaning means—that the Spirit’s intercession is according to His own will and purpose. For the Spirit of God cannot pray anything other than the will of God.

And so… do you and I find ourselves in our prayer closet at times face to face with the awareness that we just don’t know what we should be praying for? What are we to do then? This. While we lay the pieces of the whole burnt offering of our lives on the altar, let us earnestly give ourselves to His Spirit. And please, brothers and sisters, don’t try to make a learned technique of groaning in the Spirit, as some are ignorantly teaching. We can no more learn this than a woman in travail can fabricate birth pangs in order to hasten the birth. No, let us give ourselves to the Spirit, let the Spirit of life have His way. As we give the Spirit free rein, He comes to our aid and makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.” Groanings too deep for words.

Even so, God understands this language of groaning.

He understands when we pray in tongues. This is something similar to the Spirit making intercession for us with groanings too deep for words. Paul said he prayed in tongues. He said, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also” (1 Cor 14:14,15). And so when we are praying with our spirit—it is our spirit that is praying—in an unknown tongue, we may not understand what we are praying. But God understands what we are praying. And we ourselves are edified (1 Cor 14:4). And as we wait before Him, He may give the interpretation of our prayer so that our understanding is fruitful.

Of course all our praying, whether with our spirit or our understanding, must be “in the Holy Spirit,” as Jude says in verses 20 and 21:

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

And so whether we are praying with our understanding, or praying with our spirit (that is, praying in an unknown tongue), all our praying must be in the Holy Spirit. This way we are assured that our prayer returns to God from whence it came.

The groaning of the prisoner

 For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth;
To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death… (Ps 102:19,20 KJV)

 We live in a day when people are being taught that what gender they are is a matter of personal choice—whether male or female or a miscellany of other choices. Many, especially young people, are being swept along in the current of this darkness. I heard of some grandparents in anguish because a granddaughter had her breasts surgically removed and a male part added on, all the while taking the regimen of hormone treatments so she can be a male now. How long, Lord? We are told that men can have babies. Can breastfeed. How long, Lord, how long? Oh the groanings for this generation.

I hear from a First Nations friend that their graveyard is filling up with the graves of their young people. Murders. Suicides. Drug overdoses are epidemic. I heard of a young First Nations girl who was hooked on drugs and broke into a home. She was desperate for money, and had a knife. The wife in the home—her husband was out—somehow was able to get the knife from the girl, who collapsed in tears into the woman’s arms, who herself was overcome with compassion for her. This girl ended up in prison on other charges—she was a prisoner before she went to prison. And overdosed in prison. And died.

How long, Lord? Are You not He who sees the little sparrow fall? Are you not He who looked down from Heaven to hear the groaning of the prisoner, and came down to loose those appointed to death? Are You not He who in our Lord Jesus Christ abolished death, and brought life and incorruption to light by the Gospel? Oh… our loving Father, hear our prayers in this hour. Our groanings. We cry to You in this dark hour in our world. You aren’t looking for eloquent prayer. Just prayer from the heart.

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
uttered or unexpressed;
the motion of a hidden fire
that trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.

We thank you for this, dear Father, that You have this kind of hearing. You hear our heart. You heard Hanna when she prayed, yet only her lips moved. You heard Jeremiah when he cried, “Hide not Your ear at my breathing, at my cry.” You hear the heartcry of those who love You, Father. Sometimes we can only breathe out a prayer. A sigh. You hear our sighing. Sometimes we can only groan with the groanings of the Spirit. You hear our groanings. You understand. And You will answer. And so we continue to prepare ourselves a living sacrifice to You, and send up to You with that daily sacrifice our prayer… continually looking up to You, watching, waiting, anticipating Your Answer. For this is our confidence in such prayer, in Spirit-inspired prayer, dear Father. You will answer. You will answer. You will answer.

In Jesus’ Name… Amen.


The verb aw-rak’ [translated direct in the KJV] is the word used of laying the wood in order for the sacrifice, Lev 1:7, and the pieces of the sacrifice, Lev 1:8, Lev 1:12; Lev 6:5… The laying of the wood in order for the morning offering of a lamb (Lev 6:5 [Lev 6:12], cf. Num 28:4) was one of the first duties of the priest, as soon as the day began to dawn; the lamb was slain before sun-rise and when the sun appeared above the horizon laid piece by piece upon the altar. The morning prayer is compared to this morning sacrifice. This is in its way also a sacrifice…. As the priests, with the early morning, lay the wood and pieces of the sacrifices… upon the altar, so he brings his prayer before God as a spiritual sacrifice and looks out for an answer… perhaps as the priest looks out for fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice….
Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Psalm 5

Here are two of the references mentioned by Keil and Delitzsch:

And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: (Lev 1:7,8 KJV)

And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it… (Lev 6:12)


It’s All About You

Reading time: 24 minutes. Heeding time: 24/7.

I must start by relating an unhappy experience from years ago. My wife and I were attending a conference unto which many had come from far and wide in Canada and the United States, among them several church leaders whom those gathered were expecting to hear. The first session got under way with the local pastor’s opening greetings followed by further greetings from one of the elders, and then a time of singing and praising the Lord. Then the pastor called for one of the leaders to share. These were all seated at the front. It was summer, and hot weather. Very hot. The little church was packed. There was no air conditioning. Here and there people waved back and forth whatever might serve as a fan. The speaker delivered his message, which was quite long, then walked to the back. From where I was sitting I could no longer see him. After him another preached, also at length. When he finished he too went to the back, and a third went up to the pulpit and spoke for a long while also, and followed suit and went to the back. After him a fourth, who also began a message as though there had been none before him. It was stifling in the building and the preaching had become wearying—there was no real continuity from preacher to preacher, no flow from message to message—so I whispered to my wife that I was going outside for a breath of fresh air. I went to the back and walked out the door. And lo and behold, here were the speakers visiting together just outside the door in the cool of the shade.

Feeling almost intrusive I went back inside trying to suppress an uncomfortable question. Were these speakers there for the people in the church on that very hot summer day, or were the people there for the speakers? Just deliver your message and then you are done? No thought—as shepherds of the flock—of staying inside with the sheep in the stifling heat? How does it happen—that sheep who become shepherds sometimes no longer consider themselves sheep? At the same time I was aware that this circle of believers themselves held those in the ministry to be in a class above them. Is that something the shepherds fostered? It seems to me they “loved to have it so.”

It was with an emptiness in my heart that later in the day we returned home.

Now I ask the Lord’s grace to help me proceed with what’s on my heart, for it’s beyond my capacity to write of this. It has to do with the love of God for His people the sheep of His pasture, and I hope it will open the eyes of our heart, that we might see, at least a little, with the eyes of the heart of God.

I’ll start with the words of Isaiah the prophet leading into his great cry of intercession on behalf of God’s people 700 years before the birth of Christ. “Look down from Heaven, and behold…” Isaiah cries, but he is so heartbroken and the situation so grievous that God looking down is not enough and so he continues, “O that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down…” God answered that prayer of intercession 700 years later. Or at least began to answer it.

But what I want to share just now is what I feel has been opened to me in the words leading up to that cry. Here from the King James Version are those words:

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.
For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.
But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.
Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him?
That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name?
That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?
As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.
(Isa 63:7-14 KJV)

That’s quite something, isn’t it. Moses, who for 40 years had tended the flock of Jethro his father-in-law is here called “the shepherd of his flock.” God’s flock. It appears that Moses never did have a flock of his own.

Moses His people

As I dwelt on this passage, reading it over several times, I was arrested when I noticed that in verse 11, “and” is in italics, having been added by the translators to give what they felt was the sense. “Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people…” For, how could it be saying, “Moses his people”? That makes no sense. Other translations have also sought to bridge the problem by inserting “and,” or by completely changing the word order. But Young’s Literal Translation preserves the word order, simply adding a dash between “Moses” and “his people,” even though in the original Hebrew not even a dash is there:

And He remembereth the days of old, Moses–his people. Where is He who is bringing them up from the sea, The shepherd of his flock? Where is He who is putting in its midst His Holy Spirit?” (Isa 63:11 YLT).

I thank the Lord for dear Brother Young’s faithfulness to the original Hebrew word order. “Moses—his people.” We would be tempted to at least insert a comma there so that it is a list of two. “Moses, His people.” Yet, I venture, neither does a comma capture what is here for us to get hold of. No sooner is the great leader Moses named than “his people,” God’s people, are in view. Such was the identification of Moses with God’s people. They were one in God’s eyes.

Amen to that; the apostle Paul confirms it, telling us that the Israelites were “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor 10:2). The same preposition eis is translated into in Galatians 3:27. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” In fact the English Majority Text Version has “baptized into Moses…” Thus God’s people became one with Moses, and he with them. God had no purpose for His people apart from Moses—and no purpose for Moses apart from His people.

And so, God brought them up out of the sea with Moses the shepherd of His flock. For, there was more, much more, to come. A law. A covenant. A revelation that God desired to actually dwell in the very midst of this people:

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. (Ex 25:8).

The first thing to be made was an ark wherein the terms of the covenant were to be placed, and upon it a mercy seat:

And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. (Exo 25:22 KJV)

Do we see God’s heart here? The mercy seat, or propitiatory covering, was God’s throne with an attending cherub on each side. God, when communing with Moses from this throne, this blood-sprinkled mercy seat in the Holy of holies in His dwelling place… it was with His people in mind. What Moses received from God was for His people.

After reading that I got digging around further in Exodus and came across the following intriguing passage in which I have drawn attention to the singular and plural pronouns. I am quoting from the American Standard Version, which correctly translates the King James Version “tabernacle of the congregation” as “tent of meeting” (the appointed place of meeting between Jehovah and His people). This passage follows instructions concerning the two lambs of the morning and evening sacrifice:

It shall be a continual burnt-offering throughout your generations at the door of the tent of meeting before Jehovah, where I will meet with you [plural], to speak there unto thee [singular].
And there I will meet with the children of Israel; and the Tent shall be sanctified by my glory.
And I will sanctify the tent of meeting, and the altar: Aaron also and his sons will I sanctify, to minister to me in the priest’s office. (Exo 29:42-44 ASV)

In verse 42 God says He will meet with “you” (plural) by speaking to “thee” (singular). God, in speaking “unto thee”—that is, unto Moses—is meeting with “you,” that is, the children of Israel, as He confirms in verse 43. “And there I will meet with the children of Israel.” God speaks with Moses in the tent of the appointed meeting, and in doing so He is meeting with the children of Israel in the tent of the appointed meeting.

What a wonder. I must say it again. For God to meet with Moses (or subsequently the high priest or one of his sons) in the tent of meeting was to meet with the people.

And is not this but a shadow of the reality of Christ and God’s people? God, in meeting with Christ in the heavenly Holy of holies… this is to meet with His people, those who by means of the Spirit of God have been baptized into Christ, as Israel of old was baptized into Moses.

Christ His people

Now, just to make sure no one is stumbled by the heading Christ His people, this is not to say that God’s new covenant people are Christ any more than it can be said that God’s old covenant people were Moses. Nevertheless, the unity between Christ and God’s people… we are on holy ground here. When Christ said He and His Father were one, this did not mean He was the Father. He said that the Father dwelt in Him and He in the Father; they were (and are) one. “I and My Father are one” (Jn 10:30). Even so, those baptized into Christ become one with Him as He is one with the Father. “At that day [in the day of the sending of His Spirit from the right hand of God] ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you” (Jn 14:20).

And so when God communes with the great high priest of His people who is seated at His right hand in the Heavens, it is His people He is communing with, those who by the Spirit are one with Christ. Oh, what kind of heart, what love, is this? This is what I meant earlier when I said I wanted to write something that I didn’t feel capable of writing. I scarcely grasp this—how deeply our dear Lord Jesus Christ, our great high priest and king seated in the heavenly Holy of holies upon the blood-sprinkled mercy seat—the throne of grace—how deeply He was, and is, identified with us, the beloved people of God, the sheep of His pasture for whom He laid down His life. He is not there for His own sake, for power and glory and greatness, all of which and more is given to Him for our sake. He is there on our behalf in the heavenly Holy of holies “whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 6:10). He entered there—by the way of the cross—for us.

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. (Heb 9:24).

He is there for us. The Word becoming flesh—this we call the incarnation, in which He identified with man by being born a man. But it was not until the cross that His identification with man was completed in taking upon Himself our sin and being baptized into our death. Such was His identification with you and me. Such was His love. But it didn’t end there. It didn’t end there. He had a joy set before Him, and a promise—that when He ascended to the Father in the Heavens He might send the Spirit, baptizing us into Himself, that we might be fully identified with Him in His death and resurrection. And ascension. This, ultimately, is why He came. To baptize in Holy Spirit, that we might be one with Him. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”

He came from the Father for our sake. He returned to the Father for our sake, where “He ever liveth to make intercession for us” (Heb 7:25). That is why He is there. He is there for us, to the intent that, because He lives, we may live also (Jn 14:19). He died for us. He also lives for us. For He is our great high priest in the power of an endless (indissoluble) life, that we too may live. “Because I live ye shall live also.” Christ had the sending of the Spirit in mind when He proclaimed this; the Holy Spirit in you and in me is the witness of that life/union. Moment by moment. Forever. “For he testifieth, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 7:17).

This union of Christ and His people… sometimes it causes me to tremble. What a wonder it all is, and there is so much more that could be shared, too much to share just now. But I’ll leave you with one such passage that always leaves me wide-eyed with wonder.

There was given Him a kingdom…

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan 7:13,14)

And so, after His ascension the Son of man received the kingdom from the Ancient of days. Yet when I continue reading Daniel Chapter 7, what is this?

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. (Dan 7:18 ASV, see also vs 22)

And this:

And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. (Dan 7:27 ASV)

This was the joy that was set before Him, for which He endured the Cross. His joy was that our joy might be full.

Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  (Lk 12:31)

To whom did the Father, the Ancient of days, give the kingdom?

Oh, the heart of that Great Shepherd of the sheep, our great high priest, our Lord Jesus Christ. He had a joy set before Him. You.

It’s all about you

Those men I wrote of at the start. That was a long time ago, and over the years since then, the dealings and heart searchings of the Lord revealed to me that I’m no different than those men. What they were doing has lurked in my own heart also. So I continue to make it my earnest prayer—not as one who is considered a shepherd as they were, but I do teach a few of my fellow sheep—Lord, purge from my heart that lust which, while seeming to feed God’s sheep… I am actually feeding myself.

The Great Shepherd of the flock asked Peter a question. Did he love Him more than the other apostles did? Then, said He, “Feed My sheep.” That is the word of the Great Shepherd to one of his shepherds. That is His heart of love for His sheep. It’s all about them, shepherd Peter.

Moses, even when God told him he was to die without entering the promised land, his only concern was that God raise up someone else to lead the people, so that they  “be not as sheep which have no shepherd” (Num 27:17). As far as Moses was concerned, it was all about them. That is the Shepherd’s heart. The same with the shepherd-king David, who like Moses never did have a flock of his own. “So David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted His kingdom for the sake of His people Israel” (2 Sam 5:12). As far as David was concerned, it was all about God’s people. That’s who it was all about for Joshua, the man God gave the people after Moses. To him God said, “Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them” (Josh 1:6). Indeed, the honour roll of all the great ones in our Bible—they are the names of those who knew that their greatness was all about God’s beloved people.

Surely then, by their example, we also know that when God gives us knowledge, authority, a gift, a ministry… it is not to make of us some great one. It is with His people in mind. It is for their sake. The great apostle Paul (who considered himself the least of the apostles) knew this. He was so distressed that the saints in Corinth were glorying in him and his fellow-workers, and sought to show them that their perspective was upside down. It wasn’t all about Paul and Apollos and Peter; did the Corinthians not know that these men were but “ministers by whom ye believed?” Did they not know that they themselves were what it was all about?

Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. (1 Cor 3:21-23 KJV)

This is the heart of true ministry. The priestly heart. The shepherd’s heart. May it be our own heart also. It was because of His love for the least of the saints that God raised up the great apostle Paul… and who knows how many others since the days of Paul, giving these, we are told, as “gifts unto men” (Eph 4:8).

We love those whom God has given us as gifts, don’t we. Paul himself urges us to “…know those labouring among you, and leading you in the Lord, and admonishing you, and to esteem them very abundantly in love, because of their work… (1 Th 5:12,13 YLT). I lay that to heart and it’s easy for me to do this—most of those I know personally are lowly minded with the shepherd’s heart for the sheep.

But let us never lose sight of who this is all about, the purpose God has in mind. The ascended Christ has given certain ministries to the saints—apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastor/teachers—for a purpose, as we know from that all-too-familiar yet little heeded passage in Ephesians. They are “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:12,13 NKJV).

 It’s all about them, and may that little word till be underscored in our hearts, that it may serve as a continual reminder to those in the ministry, and also to those unto whom they minister, that ministry is not an end in itself. God’s purpose in ministry is only fulfilled in His people coming into their own allotted inheritance and ministries, by which they themselves become vital and effective—as they greatly long to be—in building up the body of Christ in love. When that purpose is neglected or lost sight of, the temptation is for the ministries to fill the place that God means His people are to fill, the result being that the inheritance of the people—and God’s inheritance in them—lies forever forlorn and desolate.

Paul’s heart pulsed with the love of God for His people; he spent his life that they might come into what was their own in Christ.  He neither desired nor pursued any glory of his own; they would be his glory, as he told the Thessalonians:

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
For ye are our glory and joy. (1 Thes 2:19,20)

And so I pray that those in the ministry, the shepherds of the flock of God—and all of us who might be tempted to unduly look to or even idolize them, as the Corinthians had been doing—will earnestly and prayerfully consider the great heart of the apostle Paul.

Oh, how the love of God for His people constrained him; he had in right perspective the relationship between the ministries and those to whom they minister. Oh, what a heart-searching revelation is here. I tremble to think how God views His people—the eternal purpose and hope He has in Christ Jesus for us all from the least to the greatest. It is, in a sense, all about us. “All are yours…”

“…And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”



A Loving Warning

As is my wont, I was reading in my Bible recently and came across this verse in 2 John:

Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

I read that and continued reading… till I was suddenly arrested with the awareness that God was speaking to me. I turned back and read it again.

Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

I knew what this word of warning from the Lord my keeper was about. I’m 75 now. On the home stretch. Not much time left. It’s ironic, then, that being more or less a shut-in, I find myself with a lot of time on my hands.

I remember from years ago a man who used to come up from the U.S. to Canada from time to time and minister in our midst. He was an older man who had retired from his job and now had time to travel, and one time he told us that when he retired he knew he faced a temptation, and had earnestly prayed, “Lord, keep me from pottering around the house.” Translated into my own life and circumstances, and heeding the word of my Lord to me, my own earnest watchcare and prayer is, “Lord, keep me from pottering around the internet.” I must continue to be vigilant, alert, lest, so close to the finish line, I am stumbled, and lose out on the reward of the things I have wrought. So I am thankful for my Lord’s loving warning, which resulted in some earnest heart searching.

I’m thankful for the internet—the wealth of spiritual help it has opened up, the wealth of friends I’ve made but never met face to face apart from Zoom gatherings. But the internet has its deadly dangers. You may not even be looking for it when suddenly pornography is right in your face. One must ever be on the alert. It’s the second look that takes the bait and catches the foot in the snare. One of my friends has told the story not once or twice of something he saw years ago in a National Geographic presentation. It showed a large snake lying as still as a stick, and a little chipmunk scampering back and forth along it, each time getting closer and closer to its jaws… when suddenly the snake pounced and that was the end of the chipmunk. Let us beware, brethren, of the peril in seeing how close we can get to the jaws of a snake without being caught and consumed.

But, while not outright pornography, there are countless things seemingly harmless on the internet that invite viewing and serve no other purpose than to rob us of our precious time. It’s this that the Lord was speaking to me about. And I don’t want to forget that Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (Jn 10:10). I don’t want to forget the order there—the end that the Thief has in mind when he is robbing me of my time while I am contentedly frittering away the precious minutes of my mortal life on things that do not profit the Lord or His people, or myself. Especially when in my old age the grains of sand in the glass are about run out.

George Fox of the early Friends warned that the young people were “going into the world.” An ever-present peril in our day as well. He also warned that the old people were “going into the earth.” They weren’t going on with Christ, they were in idle. In their old age they were contenting themselves with earthly things, unaware they were gradually losing the bloom known only by those who are in continual communion with the living Christ.

As I was considering these things a passage from Hosea came to mind:

Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not. (Hos 7:8,9)

Strangers have devoured his strength… Is not this what happened to the mighty Samson? What was his strength but his nazarite vow of holiness? Yet here he is intermingling himself with the unholy… and the next thing, he is in chains and his eyes are put out and he is grinding grain for the Philistines. We are told that he “wist not [was not aware] that the LORD had departed from him.” That took place suddenly. But how he got there didn’t happen in a moment. It was so gradual that he wasn’t aware he was in serious trouble.

That, apparently, is what happened to Ephraim. Something was gradually happening to him, and he wasn’t aware of it. He was mingling with the unholy, and they devoured his strength. And he didn’t know it. He was getting weak, and didn’t know it.

He was growing old… and didn’t know it. “Ephraim… gray hairs are here and there upon him, and he knoweth it not.” Gray hairs… oldness. But Hosea, how can anyone prevent aging? But this is the voice of prophecy speaking of those who would come to know the new birth in Christ, in whom we may have the ever-youthful raven-black hair of the beloved in the Song of Solomon. What’s that about? Surely it speaks of a new way of thinking, a mind in which there is nothing of the old man, but rather knows a continual renewing, the inner man being renewed day by day in spite of the outer man going the way of all the earth.

And so, Allan, there is no excuse for growing old when you grow old, as happened to Ephraim, unawares to himself. Where was his watchfulness? “Ephraim is a cake not turned.” Overdone on one side, underdone on the other. One side hard, the other side doughy. Hardly the fragrant bread of God’s table. How could this happen if the baker were attentive to the baking? The whole picture is one of a failure of daily watchfulness to maintain present-ness with God.

Words of assurance, words of warning

There is abundant provision in God at the throne of grace for us to maintain this present-ness and continue steadfast and faithful unto the end. God will always be faithfully speaking so as to keep us safe from all evil—if for my part I am hearing and heeding His leadings. If not, this is an indication of dullness on my part. If so I must be chastened. I must be stirred. I must be awakened. Hence, the many loving warnings of Scripture.

Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

It is a serious error in doctrine when we “doctrinalize” statements like this as not pertaining to the truly regenerate. The promises of God are real. The warnings accompany the promises because the possibility of falling short is also real.

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor 10:12)

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Pt 3:17)

The word beware… it means be aware of. Be mindful that it is possible for the righteous to be led away with the error of the wicked. Peter follows with words of comforting encouragement:

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Pt 3:18)

In his first epistle also Peter combines these two—the warning and the comfort:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are  accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pt 5:8-11)

I lay these words of Peter to heart, coming as they do from one who missed it badly because he had failed to lay to heart His Lord’s exhortation to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41).

About the same time I “happened upon” the warning in 2 John, I was reading by “coincidence” a book by A.B. Simpson called Joshua and The Land of Promise. (It’s actually a combination of two books by those titles.) In the chapters toward the end of the second he sets forth side by side words of assurance, and words of warning.

In closing, here are excerpts from those chapters. I found them convicting.

From a chapter called Inheriting:

Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed. (Josh 13:1)

And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you? (Josh 18:3)

The word slack implies they were indolent, and quite satisfied with their present condition. There was a lack of holy energy and aspiration after the inheritance promised. They were taking things easy. They were little concerned about failure and sin…. They were breathing the atmosphere of the enchanted ground. Have you never, perhaps even while on your knees, had such an influence thrown over you—the very anodyne of Satan, who would thus lull your spiritual senses to sleep? How it has made you shrink from the pain of holy inspiration, and made you willing to fall back into a passive contentment. God is calling you to press forward, to “lay aside every weight,” and  “be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Is this your spiritual state, beloved? If not, ask the Lord to awaken you out of your sleep. There may come a very terrible awakening some day if you do not.


The day will soon come when you, too, will be old and stricken in years. Time is rushing by; God has not given you a day too many. They are going fast. Suppose they should stop tomorrow, and you never have another opportunity to gain a victory for Him. You would give all the world for a chance to resist temptation, or for another hard place in  which to glorify God as you had before dishonored Him. The days once gone can never come back. You will not pass this way again.

There will be no chance in heaven to learn holiness, to have patience with unholy people, or to love your enemies….

If you find difficulties in your homes, or enemies in your own heart, or trouble anywhere in your life, God has given them to you as opportunities for victory. There you will find the crown of glory and the land of promise. It is always the place where God plants His paradises. Eden is always in the midst of a wilderness….

When He wanted a capital, He sent David to take a hill so difficult to capture that its inhabitants laughed at him, and defended it with the blind and lame. Yet David conquered it, and it became the Zion of the Lord, the holiest, dearest place in all the world forever.

From a chapter called The Danger of Declension:

Therefore we find the New Testament epistles, where they speak of the highest possibilities of Christian experience, most urgently warning the believer against the danger of backsliding, calling us to ceaseless vigilance and constant obedience. Even where God’s eternal faithfulness is most securely pledged to keep us, we are called upon all the more to exercise a spirit of watchfulness and constant dependence on HIs all-sufficient grace.

Hence, we find John saying in one breath, “The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you,” and yet in the next, “Now, little children, abide in Him.” We find Jude pointing us to Him that is able to keep us from falling, and yet enjoining us to “keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

We find Peter saying, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations,” but adding in the same epistle, “Beloved, beware lest ye also be led away with the error of the wicked and fall from your own steadfastness,” and again assuring us that “His divine power hath give us all things that pertain to life and godliness,” but also charging us to give diligence to make our calling and election sure, “for if we do these things we shall never fail.”

And while Paul can exclaim, in the language of the sublimest confidence, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that day;” yet he also charges Timothy in the same epistle, “That good thing that was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in thee.” “Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

And to the Corinthians:

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” But lest this should be too strong it is followed by the word of assurance, “God is faithful and will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” And then the balance is made complete by the final word of gentle warning, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” There is no discouragement, but there is no presumption; the danger is real, but the security is ample; not, however, for blind, presuming rashness, but for watchful, humble, holy, and persevering obedience.

The Bible is no system of cast-iron dogmas, but the wise, firm and gentle hand of a loving teacher and guide, adjusting its message to our situation and condition, whether of depression or false security. If in an attitude of wilful disobedience, it has no absolute promise of unconditional security, but words of stern and terrible awakening and warning; but for humble trust and watchful obedience it has nothing but encouragement and the assurance of God’s everlasting faithfulness and love.

There is, then, real danger of declension, even on the part of a consecrated Christian, should he for  one moment become separated from Christ, or relax His vigilance and constant dependence. Sanctification is not a state of infallible holiness, but a place of dependence upon Christ and abiding communion with Him. “He that abideth in Him sinneth not,” but “apart from Me ye can do nothing.” And the strongest saint will, like Simon Peter, make the most desperate failure whenever he trusts his own strength, or attempts to stand alone.

Indeed, we are never truly safe till, like Peter, we have learned our constant danger and our need of Jesus every moment. Nor let us forget that declension after consecration would be for us a fearful thing. The most terrific declensions of the world’s history have usually originated with those who have had much light before. And failure, after all that the Lord has brought us into, would be utterly sad and unutterably disastrous.

Beloved, let us abide in Him, let us put on the whole armour of God, that we may stand against the wiles of the Devil, let us adhere faithfully to His holy Word, and walk in obedience to all His commandments, and above all, let us depend implicitly upon His keeping, fearing to take one step alone. We fear not while He holds our hand and leads us safely in the most difficult paths, and makes us “walk upon our high places.”

Rejoicing Unto The End

There is a theme running through the book of Hebrews—the theme of God finishing His work. The Greek word teleos in various forms appears 21 times in Hebrews. In the English of the King James Version we have it as, full age, perfect, perfection, end, finisher.

We also find over and over again the words faith, and patience, and endurance.

We read of confidence and hope; we are urged to “hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6). Hope, then, is a confident companion always rejoicing, whom Faith and Patience and Endurance are to hold fast to them all along the way.

The Greek word translated rejoicing here is found 11 times in the New Testament. Five times it’s translated rejoicing in the King James Version and six times boasting or glorying. The thought seems to be that the hope is so sure that one may rejoice  in having the hope as one would boast in having finally received it.

The writer likens himself and his readers to competitors in a race—it’s no hundred-yard dash, it’s a marathon—and he exhorts, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith [lit. the faith] who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Here again is that companionship of joy and endurance.

Personally I have always felt I lack this joy to a great extent in my own walk… at least when I compare myself with others. I wish I could be more ebullient the way some people are. Joy just bubbles out of them. But then I will get reading some passage of Scripture, or hear a certain Word in my heart, and… oh, the joy that wells up in me from some hidden spring within! So I must be careful to guard against comparing myself with others.

Another thing I must guard against is introspection, and looking on the dark side of things—looking ahead with foreboding instead of with hope. The book of Hebrews helps me here, too. The word promise appears in Hebrews 18 times (as a noun or verb), more than in any other book of the Bible. So I need to be more disciplined in this area, and do some spiritual gardening. I must not water the plantings of darkness; in fact if any have taken root I must root them out. I must seek to cultivate and water only the plantings of the Lord, the hope of the promise that is assured us. I must “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”

The implication is that in our journey through the wilderness of life it can be lost. But it need not be lost—although to maintain it will require diligence. God has provision for us to rejoice in hope every step of our Christian walk as we bear His end in mind. This does not mean we are never burdened with sorrows. But even in sorrow there is always that certain joy in us that no man or circumstance can take from us. We may be sorrowful, but are always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10). Rejoicing in hope! (Rom. 12:12).

Jesus was faithful… as Moses was faithful

Moses was faithful to fulfill the old covenant and to build the tabernacle. He reared up the tabernacle and set all things in order, and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it. “So Moses finished the work” (Ex. 40:34). The writer of Hebrews assures us that Jesus also was faithful to Him that appointed Him.

Wherefore holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,
Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all His house. (Heb. 3:1,2)

Note the past tense in that passage—it’s that certain. Christ Jesus was faithful to complete the work God gave Him to do. And so the writer continues:

And Moses verily was faithful in all His House as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a Son over His own House, whose House are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Heb. 3:5,6)

In His high priestly prayer our Lord Jesus said, “I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” (Jn. 17:4). He confirmed this at the Cross, proclaiming, “It is finished.” Why then does the writer of Hebrews confirm that Christ was faithful, and yet speak of a work still in progress, and an end yet to come? But it’s the end of the Gospel he has in mind, the work that Christ is involved in now at the right hand of God, as He works to fulfill in us what He finished, what He accomplished, at the Cross.  Yes, it’s true—the work God gave Him to do while on earth He finished faithfully.  But now at the right hand of the Father He has a heavenly work that is not yet finished—which is to bring the new covenant people fully into the work He completed on Calvary’s cross. Thus this exhortation in Hebrews—that we are to hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.  Or as he says later in the epistle, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23 NKJV). If we do this, we have the assurance that our Lord Jesus Christ will be faithful to fulfill the new covenant in us, as Moses was faithful to fulfill the old.

This then is our question: how do we do this? How do we discover God’s provision so that we may hold the same joy we started out with all the way through our Christian journey?

First let’s note what happened to our fathers in the wilderness under Moses—and I’m thinking of that great intercessory prayer of Moses when he sees them one by one perishing in the wilderness. They had started out rejoicing.  But didn’t finish that way. At least, most of them didn’t finish that way. They died in the wilderness never seeing the promised land. This was the sentence God had passed on the faithless generation who refused to enter His rest. They would wander forty years in the wilderness till they all had died. Moses sees it happening before his eyes:

For we are consumed by Thine anger, and by Thy wrath are we troubled.
Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.
For all our days are spent in Thy wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told…
Who knoweth the power of Thine anger? Even according to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath. (Ps. 90:7-11)

It seems he is saying that the measure of God’s wrath upon His disobedient and unbelieving people was in proportion to the fear, the reverence, they had withheld from Him when they refused to believe Him and go into the land He had called them to enter. Yet Moses is interceding. How he loved the people.

Return, O LORD, how long?  And let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants.
O satisfy us early with Thy mercy…
Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants, and Thy glory unto their children.
And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us…”

“Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants…” Moses is burdened to see God finish what He started—that beautiful work of God that His hand alone can create, and in which His people had rejoiced that wonderful day when He brought them through the Red Sea on dry land. How they rejoiced and danced that day. And Moses sang and danced with them.

I will sing unto the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. (Ex. 15:1)

What tremendous hope surged in their hearts that day! The days of bondage in the iron furnace were over! Wonderful things were before them!  Their God had brought them out of Egyptian bondage, and He was bringing them into their own inheritance. He would deal with the enemies in front of them as He had done to those behind them, who were sunk in the waters of the Red Sea never to be seen again.

“The people shall hear, and be afraid; sorrow shall take hold of the inhabitants of Palestina” (Ex. 15:14). The word is stronger in the Hebrew. Sorrow would seize the inhabitants of Canaan like a woman in travail. They would quake with fear at their pending doom.

Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold of them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.
Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of Thy power they shall be as still as a stone, till Thy people pass over, O LORD, till Thy people pass over, which Thou hast purchased.
Thou shalt bring them in and plant them in the Mountain of Thine inheritance, in the place O LORD, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established.
The LORD shall reign for ever and ever. (Ex. 15:15-18)

It’s a tremendous prophecy, and they all rejoiced that day at the victory that was behind them and the glory that was before them. But it was not long before their rejoicing disappeared in the desert sand. The word of promise had not disappeared; it was their faith that had failed. This is how they lost their joy. The wilderness walk had discouraged them, as did the report their spies brought back after seeing the giants in the land before them. The prospect of giant enemies before them robbed them of their faith. They refused to go forward. They turned back in their hearts to Egypt. And lost their joy.

Paul tells us these things are written for our instruction. We too look back over our shoulder and remember the wonderful day when we first rejoiced in our salvation, and God began to unfold before our eyes what He had in mind to do. There was great joy in receiving the word. But now? These difficult times. This desolate wilderness. The word of promise seems to have fallen on hard times. And what’s ahead, though we cannot see, we guess and fear.

The rejoicing of the hope

That kind of thinking is so demeaning to us, and to our God. He wants us to find His provision—and that provision is there for us—to continue rejoicing, regardless what circumstances we are now in. He want us to “hold the beginning of our confidence… and the rejoicing of the hope firm (or, steadfast) unto the end” (Heb. 3.6,14). I am sure the writer of Hebrews has in mind here the crossing of the Red Sea I just referred to:

There did we rejoice in Him. (Ps. 66:6).

There…? What about here? What about now? God has provision for us to continue rejoicing every step of the way. Where are we to find His provision? Israel of old didn’t find it. In that waste and howling wilderness their rejoicing ceased. Their confidence withered. Instead of overcoming in the wilderness, they were overthrown in the wilderness.

I appreciate the Book of Hebrews very much.  Sometimes I’m intrigued as to who might have written it; they’re forever debating this. Does it matter? I marvel at the perception and insight the writer had by the Holy Spirit, and I am content to leave it at that. Hebrews is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—the Holy Spirit, whose one great commission is to lead us into all the truth. And because that is so, He is ready to provision and equip us to apprehend the full intent of God without giving up anywhere along the way—as that early generation of Hebrews did in the days of Moses—and as the Jews who had newly turned to Christ were tempted to do. It was these (in about 65 AD or thereabouts) that the writer of Hebrews was addressing. And so he exhorts them—and the words fall on our ears now—to fear falling short of the promise as those in the wilderness fell short.

Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. (Heb. 4:1).

Over and over again we are warned that this is the temptation—falling short. Yet how many times over the centuries has this happened? The problem is never the obstacle itself. The problem is never the trial itself. God is always greater than them all, is He not?  Where is the real problem, then?

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. (Heb 3:12).

…If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (Heb. 10:38)

…Looking diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God. (Heb 12:15).

Those are the warnings. But with the warnings, God shows us the way to apprehend His provision so that we receive the full reward. He has a great and rich store of provision that will enable us to rejoice to the end. And where do we find this provision?

The throne of grace

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:16)

If we are to be sure that we—together with our brother, our sister—don’t fail the grace of God and arrive with exceeding joy at His end, we must persist in coming unto the throne of grace—yes, especially when that’s the hardest thing to do—in time of need. In the time of sore trial, in the time of desperate need, that’s precisely when we need to come to the throne of grace. And are invited to do so. We are exhorted to come boldly to the throne of grace. Let nothing hinder us. I know by experience there are times when it seems very difficult, nigh unto impossible, to “get through” to the throne of grace. But we are exhorted to persist in this. The throne of grace is the blood-sprinkled mercy seat of God, the place of the Atonement. On the basis of the Atonement we are assured of access to God, and thus of His provision—the grace that will enable us to overcome every trial, every enemy… every step of the way. Like the old song, “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater…” If the needs grow greater, if the trials and the enemies grow greater, we discover at the throne of grace the greater grace we need to continue rejoicing “unto the end.”

As we read the passage carefully we discover that the provision for this rejoicing is found in obedience. The writer says, “…Whose house are we if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” But then he says, “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith) Today if ye will hear His Voice, harden not your hearts…” Notice the word wherefore. In other words, if instead of hardening our hearts we are responsive to His Voice, we will discover His provision for our trial, and will be able to rejoice in every step He calls us to take.

God never calls us to take a single step forward that is anything other than obedience to His will. He doesn’t set new territory before us and tell us to propel ourselves forward by our own ingenuity and resources and strength. He makes His will known to us that we may please Him by walking in it (Col. 1:9,10). Going forward then is a matter of obedience to His will, which is always accompanied by His enabling grace. And so as we follow through on His leading we know the true joy of the Lord—He Himself being with us—even in the midst of very difficult and even impossible things.

Finishing the course with joy

Hebrews is about God fulfilling His great eternal purposes. So He sets them before us so we don’t lose sight of them. Bringing many sons unto Glory.  The eternal inheritance. The Rest of God. The Heavenly calling of the royal priesthood. A City which hath foundations. Mount Zion. The new covenant…  Tremendous truths are laid out before our eyes. The best of all—the mediator of the new, the better covenant, Jesus Himself!

And, as we said at the outset, He speaks of a race that is set before us. We are in a race, and we must continue to look steadfastly to the finish line. “…Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher (teleoten) of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross…” (Heb. 12:2). He had joy even in the Cross, our Lord Jesus did, because of the hope that was set before Him.

Paul too had the same hope of finishing his course with joy.

…But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy… (Acts 20:24)

And he did just that.

We too can finish our course with joy.

Let us run with patience the race that is set before us… (Heb. 12:1)

That is our Lord’s provision for us to finish the race with joy: His patience, His endurance… His confidence.

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith… (Heb. 10:35-38).

God is saying, for My part, I am going to finish what I started. I give you My Word, My promise. And I give you My oath. I will be faithful. I will do what I have said. For your part, trust Me, believe Me.

Do we believe Him?  That’s our part.  For our part, for us to finish the race with joy, this is going to require patience, and endurance, and obedience.  And faith.

Israel of old fell short of their inheritance. They did not finish the race because they didn’t believe in their God. Seriously? They didn’t believe in God? That’s what Scripture discloses, regardless of what they said with their mouths. “They believed not in God…” (Ps. 78:22). The writer of Hebrews says the same thing.  “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb. 3.19). It was not because the wilderness trials or their enemies were too much for them. It was because of their own hardness of heart. They did not believe in their God, who had all the provision necessary to enable them to triumph in all things, and continue rejoicing… every step of the journey, regardless of the increasing magnitude of their trials in the wilderness or the size of their enemies before them.

And so He says to us, to you and to me:

TODAY, if ye will hear His Voice, harden not your hearts…

If for our part we will continue to believe Him, and obey His Voice in every step of obedience He bids us take, we can trustingly leave the rest up to Him. In every step of obedience a step at a time we will discover the well of joy springing up again right there in our wilderness.


Gog, Magog, And The Beloved City

“It’s the fulfillment of prophecy right before our eyes!”

That was the very excited comment of someone on social media regarding the news February 24 that Russian President Vladimir Putin had launched the invasion of Ukraine. She had in mind the popular interpretation of Ezekiel’s prophecy about Gog of the land of Magog in “the north parts”—that this is Russia and its leader, who spearheads a coalition of other nations and swoops down on Israel intent on its utter destruction, resulting in their own utter destruction by God.

I doubt that this will be the result of Russia’s present aggression, and I doubt that this is the right interpretation of Ezekiel Chapters 38 and 39. Here are verses 14 to 16 of Chapter 38 in the King James Version:

Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it?
And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army:
And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.

In verse 8 of that chapter we find that this prophecy is to take place in “the latter years.” This no doubt accounts for the expectation among those who have “end-time” things mapped out that the fulfillment of this prophecy is imminent. A quick search revealed dozens of internet sites proclaiming that Gog and Magog speak cryptically of Russia, giving various permutations and combinations as to who the other nations are.

What I did not find was a single site that included in the interpretation the New Testament reference to God and Magog—Revelation 20:7-10. I did find one site that mentioned this passage, but it did not include an interpretation. It’s possible there may be such sites; I didn’t do an exhaustive search.

But is it not very short sighted to explain Old Testament prophecy while ignoring further revelation in the New Testament?

Vision with greater light

Here is a rule that I’ve written into the flyleaf of my Bible:

All Old Testament Scripture must be viewed and interpreted in the light of the new covenant of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Surely we agree that this is so, we who have come to God and are joined to Him by Jesus Christ in new covenant relationship. This means the shining forth of the True Light, the reality who cast all the shadows of the law, revealing the intent of all Old Testament types and all its prophecies. If you stand in doubt of this, simply go through your New Testament and peruse every place where an Old Testament passage is quoted, and discover the kind of light the apostles of the new covenant were seeing by.

This rule accords with something theologian B.B. Warfield wrote:

The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before.

Amen. With this in mind along with the rule I mentioned above, let’s read the New Testament passage:

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Rev 20: 7-10 KJV

It may be well to note right here the first six verses of Chapter 20. This does not take place till after the thousand year reign of Christ and His kingdom of priests. Personally I’m not convinced that the “thousand years” is to be interpreted literally; I think it is a symbolic number, as many if not all the numbers in Revelation are.

But let’s look further at verses 7 to 10. This was written by the Spirit-inspired new covenant apostle John. Now, what has he, or rather, the Holy Spirit, done? Has He overlooked a lot of detail included in the Ezekiel passage? Or has He distilled it to its essence? Let me put it this way. Is He not shining brighter light on something hitherto dimly lighted?

Two things are of note.

1. The forces involved in this aggression are “the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth.” John sums them up as “Gog and Magog.” That’s how it reads—“…the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog. In fact New Testament Greek scholar A.T. Robertson (Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament) points out that this is implicit in the inflection of the original Greek:

Gog and Magog (ton Gōg kai Magōg). Accusative in explanatory apposition with ta ethnē (the nations).

What Robertson means by the “accusative in explanatory apposition” is that “Gog and Magog” explains what is meant by “the nations.” That is new covenant light shining upon an Old Testament passage of Scripture. There is no thought here of Russia being the instigator or perpetrator of this rampage. Gog and Magog are “the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth… the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” Note that. This means that if Russia were Gog (and I don’t accept that this is correct interpretation) then the nations in other quarters of the earth would include, well, you name it. The United States, for one. The United Kingdom. Germany. Aligned with Russia. All the nations are gathered together for this battle. (However, I don’t think that “nations” as we read of them in the Bible are geopolitical entities, but rather people groups. Goyim is the Hebrew word, meaning Gentiles, ethnos the Greek.)

2. And what is the objective of these deceived hosts? With whom are they intent upon doing battle?

And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city…

What is the “camp of the saints?” We can be sure that the new covenant apostle is speaking of new covenant saints—those, whether Jew or Gentile, who are set apart unto God in Christ Jesus. The Greek word for camp is used of a military force or fortress. The camp of the saints, then, is one with their beloved city; they are armed and ready to defend her to the death.

And what city is “the beloved city”? Of course this city is Jerusalem. But which Jerusalem? The only Jerusalem we read of in the Revelation is the new Jerusalem (3:12, 21:2), the holy Jerusalem (21:10). John calls her “the beloved city.” He is not waxing sentimental here; he is alluding to an Old Testament passage, as he does hundreds of times in the Revelation. This—the beloved city—is  surely one of them, bringing Psalm 87 to mind. Here it is from the English Standard Version, which I think in two or three places expresses the meaning more clearly than the King James:

On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God. Selah.
Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush— “This one was born there,” they say.
And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her.
The LORD records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” Selah.
Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”
Psalm 87 ESV

Is this psalm speaking of the earthly Jerusalem? But mention is made of Rahab (Egypt) and Babylon, Philistia and Tyre and Cush among them that say, “This one was born there.” As the Lord registers the peoples of the earth, He makes note of that. “This one was born there.” “This one and that one…” So surely this is prophetic of the city of God, the beloved city, that is home to redeemed Jews and Gentiles who are one in Christ Jesus regardless of where they reside on the earth. It is this Jerusalem, the “Jerusalem which is above,” that Paul proclaims “is the mother of us all,” that is, of all who are “born of the Spirit” (Gal 4:26,29).

So, according to new covenant revelation it’s not really earth-bound Israel that an unleashed Satan is out to destroy with the help of Gog and Magog, the deceived of “the nations in the four quarters of the earth.” It is “the camp of the saints, and the beloved city.” It is one last-ditch all-out onslaught aimed at annihilating the people of God—those who, whether Jew or Gentile, are in covenant relationship with Him by Jesus Christ.

And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

Such is the love of God for His beloved city the church in which all men and women are one in Christ, with birth certificates proving their new birth in her. Whether from Rahab or Babylon, or Russia or Ukraine, or China or Canada or Palestine or Israel or wherever… this one, and that one, are walking in love together, dancing and singing together, “All my springs are in you.”




Going To Heaven?

“Going to Heaven” is so common a phrase describing the Christian’s hope when days on earth are done that you’d think it would be found in the Bible more often than it is. How often is that? Brace yourself. None at all.

Here is what was on the mind of the apostle Paul when he wrote from prison to the saints in Philippi. He wrote that he was in a strait—hard pressed between two things.  The one was that the saints here on earth needed him, and on that account he was confident of his release through their prayers and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This, Paul wrote, was “according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phi 1:20,21 NKJV).

And so Paul anticipated that if he lived, Christ would be magnified in his body. And—the other side of the strait—if he died? What gain did he have in mind?

For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. (Phi 1:23 NKJV)

There it is, the other thing that pressed hard upon him, which he called “far better”—the desire to “break camp” (for so the word depart implies) and… go to Heaven? But it wasn’t Heaven that was on his mind. It was to be with his beloved Lord Jesus Christ who loved him and had died for him, and whom he had come to know and love in sharing His sufferings here on earth.

And where is Christ? Yes, in Heaven, and of course the habitation of the saints who have gone on is in Heaven. But going to Heaven was not the yearning of the apostle, but rather to be with Christ Himself, as we discover also in the rapture passage:

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thes 4:17)

“With the Lord.” That’s what Heaven was all about for Paul… being with his beloved Lord Jesus.

This is just as, for Christ Himself, returning to Heaven was all about being with the Father.

But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? (Jn 16:5).

I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. (Jn 16:28)

Christ desired to be with the Father. And where is the Father? “Our Father, who is in heaven…” (Mt 6:9)

And His great desire was and still is that His own be with Him there:

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (Jn. 17:24 NKJV)

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. (Jn 12:26).

Those two verses are joined together in an old hymn:

O Jesus, Thou hast promised
To all who follow Thee,
That where Thou art in glory
There shall Thy servant be.

Yes, but those who love Him desire to be with Him even though it mean sharing in His suffering and shame. Such was the love of Ittai the Gittite for David the king at the time of Absalom’s coup. It looked like David had lost the kingdom, so he gathered his few faithful followers and prepared to leave Jerusalem behind. When he saw his friend Ittai and his men among those following, David urged him to go back. Foreigner that he was, and already an exile (from Gath of the Philistines), he need not jeopardize his life like this. “Return and remain with the king,” David said. (Quite something, that David called Absalom king.) But it wasn’t securing his own life and interests that was in Ittai’s heart. It was David himself who was in his heart. And he continued to call him king.

And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be. (2 Sam 15:21)

What love. And such is the love of those who have come to know the King of kings in the days of His humiliation and rejection—in the days of our sojourning here in this present evil Christ-hating world. To follow Him, to serve Him, to be with Him wherever He is… this is all we desire.

It’s all He desires.

I am reminded of the repentant thief on the cross who asked the Lord beside him to remember him when He came in His kingdom. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be… in paradise” (Lk 23:43). Paradise? It’s the same word that the Septuagint translators used for the Garden of Eden. “Today you will be… in the Garden.” How wonderful is that; who could want more? But did you notice that I left out two words? “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” What is Paradise without this One, who so loved a dying thief that He was laying down His own life for him at that very moment, desiring that he live with Him forever in the Paradise of God?

This reminds me of Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661). He was a Scottish pastor who was a Nonconformist—that is, one who refused to “conform” to the required procedures of the Church of England. For this he was deprived of his ministry in Anwoth in southwest Scotland, was exiled to Aberdeen in the north, and barred from preaching anywhere in Scotland “for the duration of the King’s pleasure.” It was during his two years in Aberdeen that Rutherford wrote many letters which were eventually compiled and published. In the earlier letters he often wrote with sorrow of his temptation to believe it was the Lord Himself who had been displeased with him and had therefore removed him from his duties as pastor. This caused him deep anguish; he felt defeated, and wrestled with doubt and discouragement and depression—along with the pain of being separated from the flock of God he loved so much, grieving that they were left to hands of hirelings and  the jaws of wolves. But then he made a discovery. Over and over he would write of Jesus coming to him in such times, coming to him and communing with him His love for him, a love the depth of which he had not known before, but had discovered in the fellowship of His sufferings. Oh how this love raptured his heart.

And Rutherford came to love Him as never before, to the extent that, although he wrote profusely of going to Heaven in his letters, he wrote also this:

“If heaven were at my disposing, I would give it for Christ, and would not be content to go to heaven, except I were persuaded that Christ were there.”



Government And Peace

Let me sketch you a picture out of a children’s storybook as best I recall it from my childhood. Perhaps you’ve seen something like it yourself—a castle high on a hill, and below it the whole kingdom round about inhabited by happy and contented people. Throughout the land a stream wends its way; along its banks are fields and orchards, abundance for all. The people live without fear, safe and secure from all alarms and enemies because of the king who resides in the castle and protects them. He is a great king, and powerful. He watches over his kingdom night and day lest any attempt to invade it and disturb its peace.

What a lovely picture, eh? If only… Yes, if only it were real. If only we could live in that picture instead of in the real world with its troubles of the present and forebodings of the future. Peace and Confidence (transients from the world) have packed up and left the home of the heart; the unwelcome intruders Anxiety and Fear have moved in, and growing numbers can’t evict them. Neither, it seems, can their government. Thus, many these days have lost faith in their government; they are anxious and angry about the things their government is doing. Or not doing.

Oh that they might discover the reality of which my storybook picture is but a wistful imagination, and delight themselves in a peace that the world with all its governments cannot give. Here is that reality in the words of a prophecy 700 years before it began to be fulfilled, and which continues to this day, and shall forever:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa 9:6,7 KJV)

Here then is the king, and here is His throne and His kingdom. Its government, its rule, is upon His shoulder—it is His responsibility—and He is more than up to the job; it only takes one of His shoulders, the other, as someone has said, He reserves for His lambs.

The promise is that “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end…” Those two words government and peace are one. His government is peace.  Peace is His government. Dearly beloved, let this lay hold of us. In vain do we seek peace apart from His government in our lives. But when we have bowed the knee and the heart to this king, His government, that is to say His peace, rules over us and in us and nothing can disquiet it.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom…” There is the seat of His government—the throne of David. This reminds me of the prophecy of the priest Zacharias upon the birth of his son John the Baptist. The time of the fulfillment of prophecy and promise, of an oath and a covenant, had arrived. It’s a lengthy prophecy so I’ll compress it here (but I encourage you to read it in full; even if you’ve read it many times it’s well worth savouring again).

Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David…” (Lk 1:67-69 NKJV). This, then, is a prophecy of a coming king in the line of David. The horn in Scripture is symbolic of power, and the result of this power is “salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us…” Zacharias knew his Bible; he is almost quoting from it here: “for the LORD hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies” (2 Sam 3:18). Zacharias continued: “…To grant that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.” So this deliverance from, this salvation from, is also salvation to. Under this king’s rule his subjects are not only liberated from their enemies, they are also provisioned with the grace of holiness and righteousness so that they may to serve their God without fear, for their enemies cannot penetrate His domain, fear is banished, and sin can no longer molest.

And so it is from the throne of David that this king’s kingdom—His government and peace—is ruled. The king of this kingdom, the Son of David, reigns on the throne of David in the castle of His kingdom high on the hill Zion at the right hand of God. It is from this throne in the heavens that His kingdom is administered here in the earth—by the Holy Spirit sent from that throne. Oh that we might be awakened to the reality of this. To be led by the Spirit of God is to be governed by the throne of God. Beloved, when that Government is in our hearts, its peace is inviolable. For the very throne of God is in that peace, and His throne is inviolable.

Be careful for nothing

Here’s another New Testament passage that has this same government and peace in mind:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6,7 KJV)

That’s from the old King James version of 1611. The word through here is a mistranslation of the Greek word en. Newer translations have “in Christ Jesus.”

And some of the words in the KJV have lost the meaning they had back then. For careful other translations now have anxious. That is, full of care. Be not full of care, but careless, or rather carefree, by bringing every care in prayer to God. That is the emphasis here. “…Let your requests be made known unto God, and the peace of God that passeth all understanding shall keep…” As in another much-loved verse in Isaiah: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isa 26:3). Note who it is that does the keeping. “Thou wilt keep..” The perfect peace is the evidence of a mind stayed on God, it is the evidence of trust in God. It’s quite something that the word trust here (Heb batach) is elsewhere translated careless. “Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech. Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women…” (Isa 32:9,10). Careless is the same word translated trust. You mean when we trust God it’s okay to be careless? Apparently, yes. Not in our walk, this is not advocating a lax walk. But we can breathe a sigh of relief, can relax, be no longer on edge. We may be careless even in the midst of cares. We may not be “out of the woods,” but we may “sleep in the woods” (Ez 34:25). That’s pretty careless, wouldn’t you say? Better stay awake and worry. Not when we are in the care of the Shepherd King of David’s line who keeps His flock. Wild beasts may prowl round about roaring and howling in the darkness, cares and troubles may lurk in the shadows threatening to devour us, but we are kept in perfect peace, a peace that passes all understanding. Because we trust in Him.

Kept in the Keep

I love the word keep, this is another of the old KJV words that has lost its original force. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace…” “And the peace of God… shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus…” Among the many definitions of keep the Merriam Webster online dictionary has this: “to preserve, maintain. To watch over and defend, to keep from harm.” That’s the verb. Where the KJV has “shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” newer translations have “shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus…” Guard is the same word Paul used when he said that “In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me…” (2 Cor 11:32). So the peace of God that surpasses all understanding shall be a garrison keeping guard over our hearts and minds, permitting no escape, and keeping out any anxious thought attempting entry. For—let’s not miss this—how can they enter into Christ Jesus? Because…

…Keep is also a noun: “one that keeps or protects: such as aFORTESS, CASTLE specificallythe strongest and securest part of a medieval castle. bone whose job is to keep or tend. cPRISON, JAIL.”

 Here we find keep used two ways. The keep is “one whose job is to keep or tend.” And the keep is also a fortress, a castle, “specifically the strongest and securest part of a medieval castle.” I love that. To be guarded by the peace of God is to be kept in a keep—the strongest and securest part of a castle, the very purpose of which was to defend against the worst onslaught of the enemy. It is the keep’s (or keeper’s) job to do the keeping—not the one who is being kept. It’s not our responsibility to come up with peace in times of turmoil. Many these days are anxious for peace, longing for peace.  But once again, it’s a misguided and fruitless endeavour to pursue peace as an end in itself. I know that the Scriptures exhort us to seek peace (Ps 34:12). But we must know where to look for it. Peace will not be found apart from the government of the King of Righteousness. It is His righteousness that effects peace.

And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest… (Isa 32:17-19 KJV)

Peace in the very midst of a devastating storm of evil? Yes. To pursue the God of righteousness inevitably means finding His peace. Regardless of our circumstances. The keeping peace is just there when we have come to God—our loving God—on bended knee with all our cares. That is our responsibility. When we do that, we find ourselves garrisoned in His peace, that is, in the keep of the castle Christ Jesus Himself.

Dear Lord Jesus Christ our king on the throne of David, we pray, keep us in there; keep us in Your keep. It has proven to be true according to Your words, that “in the world you will have tribulation.” To our sorrow we know that to be true. But, then, it must also be true according to your word—and we may prove this also—that since you have overcome the world we may be of good cheer, and in You have peace, the kind of peace the world cannot give. And cannot take away either. We will, then, according to Your words dear Jesus our king, put our trust in You and let not our heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. Amen. (Jn 14:27, 16:33).



%d bloggers like this: