Category Archives: God’s Eternal Purpose

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.









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.


The Great Rebellion

In my Bible reading over the course of several days my Radar began to blip (yes, there is actually such a word) whenever I came across instances of resistance and rebellion against God in the story of Israel coming out of Egypt into their promised land, which Moses called “the rest and the inheritance” (Dt 12:9). So I began to pay attention to these blips, wondering what was behind them, and asking, “What, beloved Radar, are you desiring to reveal to me?” I continued reading, anticipating His answer, noting that God dealt very severely with those who resisted what He was doing in liberating Israel from Egyptian bondage and bringing them into His rest. Being on the watch more alertly now, light began to dawn on me as to why.

According to Isaiah 14 the first rebellion was in the angelic realm. Here is the account:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isa 14:12-14)

Note the refrain, “I will… I will… I will…” It appears that this being named Lucifer set himself upon a pursuit of self determination, making his policy, “I will” rather than, “what Thou wilt.” We gather that this rebellion was the beginning of Satan (Adversary), his former name (Lucifer, morning star) being no longer true to him. It appears that a host of angels joined Lucifer in that rebellion (Jude 6).

Lucifer, now Satan, “that old serpent” (Rev 12:9) succeeded in bringing man into his rebellion. However, when this happened, God began to unfold His “eternal purpose in Christ Jesus”—that of returning man to Himself. This eternal purpose would take some time to unfold, and in the unfolding of it rebellions continued to reoccur. This is where light began to dawn on me—that every rebellion is an echo of the first rebellion of Lucifer against God. Actually, it seems to me, they are more than echoes; Satan is the behind-the-scenes instigator of all rebellion. When we see in our world around us the continual refrain, “I will… I will… I will… not Thy will but mine be done,” where do you suppose this is this coming from?

The Rest of God and man

I recall something that F.B. Meyer wrote—that in Genesis there is no record of the seventh day having an evening or a morning as did the other six days of creation.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Gen 2:2,3)

The seventh day, then, is the rest that God had sanctified for Himself. And for man. And for all creation. Satan despoiled God of His rest by spoiling Him, robbing Him, of man. This brought a curse upon the ground. The man himself was sent out of the Garden to live a life not of rest but of toil and sweat. (God had given Adam work to do in the Garden– Genesis 2:15– but it was the work of rest, not the work of toil and sweat.) Even so, having driven man out of the Garden, God always intended to fulfill the desire of His heart—the man being with Him in the Sabbath rest of God.

If you are familiar with Hebrews Chapters 3 and 4 you will know that Canaan was a type of this Rest, the Sabbath rest that man lost in Eden. With Canaan in mind the writer of Hebrews says, “There remaineth therefore a rest [Gk sabbatismos] to the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). And so the story of Israel coming out of Egypt into Canaan is prophetic of God’s eternal plan to return man to His rest. “The rest of the inheritance” was, in type, the original Rest of God into which, man entering, would mean God finally vanquishing the rebel Satan and his hosts and gaining His heart’s desire—God and man together in His rest, and all creation rejoicing because of it.

Pharaoh stubbornly resisted Moses time and again, but—read the passages over again—the contest is not between Pharaoh and Moses; it’s God Himself that Pharaoh is resisting. And who is it, actually, who is motivating Pharaoh? No wonder then that God dealt so severely with Pharaoh, who refused to release His people from Egyptian bondage. God destroyed Egypt because Pharaoh resisted His plan.

Then there was Amalek who harassed the weak on their way through the wilderness. Who was behind that? God swore that He would blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under Heaven for this. I want to quote a bit about this here because it will show us something about the heart of God.

Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;
How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it. (Dt 25:17-19)

Two things here. 1. God’s tender love toward the weak, the faint, the weary, the hindmost of His people. (Is that our attitude toward the stragglers, the feeble, those who have fallen behind?) 2. The severity of God toward His enemies.

Now, why did Amalek do this vicious, this heartless evil? “He feared not God.” Hold on to that thought, we will come back to it in the second part of this message.

Then the Canaanites—not those who inhabited Canaan but those who dwelt in the wilderness (Num 31:1-3)—they also fought against Israel. To their own destruction. The same fate befell the Amorites who resisted Israel along the way. Then the Canaanites who inhabited the land fought against Israel. Be sure that the first rebel was involved in all this resistance, determined to hinder the purpose of God in bringing a chosen people into His rest. God dealt very severely with His enemies for all this.

But the heartbreaking thing is that God’s own people chronically rebelled against Him. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me” (Isa 1:2). This lament of Isaiah’s was some 700 years after the exodus during which Moses himself had said, “Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you” (Dt. 9:24).

A prime illustration of this was the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram against the leadership God had appointed to guide His people to Canaan. God caused the earth to open its mouth and swallow them live for this. If like me you are aghast at the severity of this judgment, it can only be because it has not registered on us how serious a matter rebellion against God is.

The great rebellion in the wilderness

On the border of Canaan Moses gave the people a history lesson:

Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD…  (Dt. 9:7)

He then reminded them of the occasion of their greatest rebellion:

Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice. (Dt. 9:23)

Moses said, “ye believed him not.” What they did believe was “the evil report” of the ten spies, which filled them not with faith but with fear:

And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. (Num 14:4)

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces when they heard this, and Joshua and Caleb “rent their clothes,” pleading with the people:

Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. (Num 14:9)

The ten spies who brought back the evil report of the land “died by the plague before the LORD” (Num 14:37), and He swore an oath that none of those who had believed them, that is, had refused to believe Him, would enter the rest. The Lord, though he had “saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not” (Jude 5). “Your carcases shall fall in the wilderness” was the sentence He pronounced upon them; they would never see His rest. Why such severity? Because to rebel against  Him and refuse to enter that rest was to align themselves with the original rebellion of Satan, who had deprived God of His rest in man. It was iniquity then and iniquity now, it was disobedience, it was unbelief, it was a heinous crime against God to turn back from Him. For it was to the very intent of bringing His people with Him into His rest that God had sanctified them unto Himself and redeemed them out of Egypt. From the beginning of their journey He had gone to great lengths to show them that He Himself was with them, and He would continue to be with them in this.

Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God. (Dt. 1:26)

Thus they brought upon themselves the wrath of God, as the Psalmist recorded: “To whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my Rest” (Ps 95:11). This is a reference to Numbers 14:21-23, in which the words, “as I live… surely” are the formula of an oath:

but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Jehovah;
because all those men that have seen my glory, and my signs, which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that despised me see it.

A very severe judgment.

Today if ye will hear His voice…

 It’s quite something that right in the middle of a psalm of praise and worship the psalmist, caught up in the Spirit of the Lord, suddenly breaks in with a cry—it’s the cry of the heart of God—that is still sounding today. Let’s read the whole psalm, the better to realize the impact of this sudden breaking in of the cry. First, with the call, “O come,” there is a crescendo of praise, and then a second “O come” is a call to worship and bow down before so great a God… and then the cry, and you can’t help but sense the broken heart it comes from:

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest. (Ps 95:6-11)

Why this severe judgment? To repeat, it was because it was high crime against God to refuse to enter His rest. This was to align themselves with the rebel Satan.

But saints of the Lord, saints of the Lord—those whom God has called to be His very own—we do the same today when by not entering into God’s rest, we deny Him the desire of His heart—deny Him His will for us—our being together with Him in His rest. Our being with Him in His rest, this is to the praise of His glory. Do we recognize this? Entering His rest is not just for our own sake; to deny Him our entrance into rest is to deny Him His glory in our lives, His rest in our lives. We read the ancient story and are critical of them; we know that nothing justified their refusal to enter the rest—the difficulty of the prospect, the size of the giants, the cities walled up to heaven; it was none of these that kept them out of Canaan, but their own unbelief, their own refusal to obey God. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb 3:19). What is it, then, that justifies you and me from failure to enter His rest? Yes, I know, the difficult, the impossible circumstances. This is what we say… and we are left with a heart that cannot rest. But entering the rest does not depend on circumstances, it depends on believing God, obeying Him. “For we do enter into the rest–we who did believe…” (Heb 4:3 YLT).

Oh, the simplicity of it. The heart that cannot rest, yet all too often seeks to find rest in things other than the one thing alone that will bring rest… are we sure it’s not because we have set at nought God’s one and only way of rest—believing Him, and obeying Him? Like Israel of old, all too often we have forgotten our Resting Place (Jer 50:6). In God alone is our rest. Let us surrender to Him, then, that evil heart of unbelief that cannot rest. He says I will make you lie down in My green pastures, I will cause you to rest. “I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD” (Ez 34:15).

Let us believe Him, then. Let us know that no matter the size of our own giants or how difficult our circumstances, we may, we must, glorify God therein—gratify God, actually—by believing Him and entering His Rest, His Sabbath, which He made for man that He might be glorified. Really, it isn’t all about you and me; it is for His sake that we enter His rest… and are ourselves benefited.

And so let us be very sure then, that we know what’s going on when we are listening to an inner voice that insists it is more to our advantage to do our own will. That voice comes from one whose enmity against God is to this day unabated. To believe is to enter the Rest. To not believe, the writer of Hebrews calls disobedience: “Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience… Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:6,11 NKJV).

Let us, beloved, not be numbered among the disobedient—the rebellious.

More next time.

Seek The Things Above (Part Two)

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Last time we began to answer the question on many hearts these days: “Why isn’t God doing something about this?” That is, this pandemic now in its second year. Just as a few countries began to proclaim a tentative victory, it caused the medical system of India to collapse. A firsthand report from a friend there reveals that things in India are far worse than we’re hearing in the news, the number of deaths is far higher. And the worst is yet to come—this wave of the pandemic there still hasn’t reached its peak. Other countries, poor countries, some of which have received no vaccine whatsoever, are also finding it extremely difficult to cope with the increasing numbers infected. Here in Alberta, Canada, daily infections are higher than anywhere else in North America. The blame game is well underway, but it’s so short-sighted to blame earthly governments for all this; the problem goes far deeper than that.

But consider this. The pandemic has so dominated the news that scarcely any attention has been given to the fact that other evils—droughts, plagues of locusts, famines, brewings of wars… are taking place at the same time.

If you recall, we quoted Solomon of old who in Ecclesiastes gives his account of things “under the sun,” a phrase he used 29 times elaborating on the futility of it all. “Vanity of vanity, saith the Preacher, all is vanity.” That is, pointless, meaningless, futile. That is life “under the sun.” Solomon has no reputation as an optimist but he certainly was a realist. Here is what we quoted:

For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. (Ecc 9:11,12 KJV)

It has always pained my heart to hear of a suicide, a pain I’m feeling more often these days when I hear of people who have taken their own lives because life under the sun seemed so pointless to them, in fact had become unbearable—the mental and emotional oppression brought on by the lockdowns, the family breakdowns, the economic hardships… it all became too much to bear any longer, life was not worth living. That they have done so is unbearable to me, because, oh, life is not pointless, there is purpose, eternal purpose in Christ Jesus the Lord that will take ages and ages to unfold. God has not left mankind prey to evil nets and snares “under the sun.” He has made provision in Christ for life. Life above it all, as we showed last time, quoting from Colossians:

If, then, ye were raised with the Christ, the things above seek ye, where the Christ is, on the right hand of God seated,
the things above mind ye, not the things upon the earth,
for ye did die, and your life hath been hid with the Christ in God;
when the Christ–our life–may be manifested, then also we with him shall be manifested in glory.
(Col 3:1-4 Young’s Literal Translation)

What are the things above? Last time we showed that the pronoun ye is those who are in Christ, and mentioned from Ephesians that “all our spiritual blessings are above, our heritage is above, our warfare is above—in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” That’s because we ourselves are above—that is, we who have been baptized into Christ—because “God, who is rich in mercy for His great love toward us even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).

It is this last one—that we ourselves have been raised with Christ and are therefore seated with Him in the heavenlies—that we are emphasizing in the Colossians passage. Our very life is there. In Christ. In the heavenlies. If we then are above, says Paul, we ought to be seeking the things above, “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

So then, to ask what God is doing in this hour is answered by discovering what Christ is doing. For Jesus Christ the Son of God is seated at the right hand of God; the Father has committed all things unto Him (Jn. 3:35, 13;3). He has sealed Him, has given Him His signet ring, has given Him “all authority in Heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:16). What then is the Christ doing at the right hand of God?

He is administering the Good News of a kingdom that when fully completed will mean all the works of man brought to naught and all enemies under His feet.

He is overseeing a building project. Jesus Christ at the right hand of God is building a church. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). Many of us are fond of reminding others that the church is not the building. I know I’m being a bit cheeky here but the church is the building. The church that Jesus is building is a house, “…the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). And so of course, by “house” I do not mean a house of wood and stone.

A priest upon His throne

Now there is an ancient prophecy we must read. Leading up to the passage, we are told of a crown that was to be set on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest at that time. Then follows the prophecy:

Then speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zech 6:12,13)

The Branch—this is the Christ. The Anointed One. He sits and rules upon His throne. But there is something here we too often overlook. It is a priest who sits as king upon the throne. The counsel from this throne—the wonderful counsel of the Gospel of peace—proceeds from one who is both a king and a priest. Look one moment, and it is a crown on His head. Blink your eyes and it is a mitre on His head. In Christ at the right hand of God the scepter of the king and the censer of the priest are one.

And seated at the right hand of God this king/priest is building a Temple, a habitation, a dwelling place, a house for the living God. He is not using wood and stone. He is using “living stones,” as Peter the rock says, for He is building “a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5). The living stones built into the house are also its “holy priesthood,” who offer up “spiritual sacrifices [that is, themselves], well pleasing to God by Jesus Christ.” Peter also calls this priesthood “a royal priesthood” (1 Pt 2:5-9). This priesthood is not a separate clergy, and it is not confined to the ministries God has set in the church who are not a separate clergy; each and every living stone is involved in this priesthood, not just theoretically, but vitally, functionally. And so seekers of the things above, seekers whose minds and affections are set on things above, find themselves involved in what the great king/priest of this house is doing. He is building living stones into the house of God, and He is involving the living stones in the building of the house—always reminding them that “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1). My old King James Version margin reads, “are builders of it in it.” Quite something, that the house is building, edifying, itself. Yet it is, and must always be, the king/priest Himself who is doing the building. “Except the Lord build the house…” All we do must be His doing, or we labour in vain.

Now I want to get to the heart of what has been in my heart concerning seeking the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede

There are in essence two ministries in the universe—one of intercession, the other of accusation. Dearly beloved, have nothing to do with the latter, leave it to the one who in his hatred of God and man loves to do that. It is intercession that is the heartbeat of Christ’s high priestly ministry at the right hand of God, intercession that is the pleading of His own blood, as Charles Wesley wrote in his immortal hymn:

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all-redeeming love, His precious blood to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Our great king/priest reigning at the right hand of God maintains continual intercession on behalf of the living stones of this house. Such were the saints in the church at Rome, whom Paul reminded that whatever the condemner might bring against them, “it is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:34). This is His occupation and His preoccupation—to make intercession for His own, and He will not fail in it, His intercession has the very power of the throne in it; it is effectual. “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Oh, the Lamb, the bleeding Lamb, the Lamb of Calvary,
The Lamb that was slain now liveth again to intercede for me.

Thus you and I offer up this perpetual prayer of gratitude:
Thank you, Jesus, thank you, thank you, that you intercede for… me.

“I pray not for the world…”

But what is this? Jesus not praying for the world? This is what Jesus said in what has been called His high priestly prayer of intercession. John Chapter 17. He is praying for those whom His Father has given Him “out of the world.”

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. (Jn. 17:9,10)

That used to trouble me a lot because I knew that God sent His Son into the world to reveal His love for the world—the multitudes under the sun. And here He is not praying for them? It’s not because He was a Calvinist; I finally learned to read Scripture in context. When we continue reading we come to this: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (Jn. 17:15 KJV) Or, “from the evil one” (NKJV). For the evil one is bent on resisting God’s plan for the world. And then this: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” And then this:

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Do we see this? In seeing it are we broken? “…That the world may believe… That the world may know…” And so the very question of God not caring for those under the sun is unthinkable. It is because of His great love for the world that His ministry of intercession is first of all on behalf of His own—that they may be kept from the devices of the Evil One, who, because he is bitterly set against all mankind, and hates and deceives them and robs and destroys them and divides them against one another, he makes Christ’s own the special objects of his hatred. It’s because he knows they are his downfall. And so Christ prays to His Father to “keep them from the evil.” The pits and snares and devices of “the evil one.” And He prays that they may be “perfected into one,” may be so one with Him and with one another that the world may see Him in His house, that through those in His house the world may come to know His great love for the world.

What Jesus prayed was entirely scriptural, actually. (No surprise, the Word of God knew His Bible.) “Out of Zion the perfection of beauty God hath shined” (Ps. 50:2). “Beautiful for situation [or elevation], the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great king” (Ps. 48:2). “Thou shalt arise and have mercy on Zion… So shall the heathen [the nations] fear the name of the Lord, and all kings thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion he shall appear in His glory…” Ps. 102:13-16). And so God’s burden is for His house because His burden is for the world. For when the love of God in Christ is resident in Zion, when Zion is beautified with the beauty of the Lord, others are drawn into His house; they come to know His salvation, His rescue operation from “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:3-5). This—salvation from sin, the one problem of this evil world—is God’s answer for the world. This is vehemently resisted by our arch-enemy the Devil. He is out to make war with the saints; he is out to defeat them. So in standing against him as part of our spiritual armour we are to be “praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph 6:18).

This is our great high priest’s primary concern. His own. The saints. It is the concern of a commander for his army. How can they win without his continual intercession on their behalf? But once armed and empowered by His might, He enjoins upon them that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men…” because He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1,4 NKJV). Are not you and I glad for this? How quickly some of us, now in the house of God, now God’s own, forget that “we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

And so what Christ said—“I pray not for the world”—He said as a faithful “high priest over the house of God” (Heb. 10:21). It doesn’t mean that we in the house of God are not to pray for the world. Now provisioned as priests in His house, armed with His Spirit, His anointing, we are to pray and make intercession for our secular authorities, our neighbours near and far, our loved ones still lost, as the saints throughout the ages have done and still do, sometimes with burdens of intercession that press them into the very ground. It goes without saying that God cares for all mankind. He couldn’t care more, for in His love for the world He has given no less than His Son.

A kingdom of priests

 If this then is what God is doing, if this is what is happening “above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” what are you and I doing in this hour? Are we seeking the things above? We must, lest we remain earthly minded, blinded really, and cheated of what is ours in Christ at the right hand of God. Ours? But just what is it that is ours at the right hand of God? A crown? A throne? Yes, but is this something we have in mind for our own benefit alone—sitting with Christ as a king in His throne? Or… is the heart of a priest beating within us and it is the need of others we have in mind, the wayward, the lost? Are we compelled by the love of Christ, seeking that we might join our great High Priest upon the throne in His ministry of effectual intercession?

None will reign with Christ in His throne who are not priests in His kingdom of priests.

John the Revelator sees in the throne room of Heaven a throne, and One seated upon the throne, and “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4). In Scripture the white robe is the garment of the priest. So here are priests wearing crowns of gold and sitting on thrones. This then is the royal priesthood, 24 being a symbolic number (as are all the numbers in The Revelation). And—something to think about here—is John in this vision of the heavenly throne room seeing just the heaven-side? Or is this also inclusive of those in the earth who have apprehended their heavenly calling? This is my view. They may be in the earth scattered in churches here and there, but spiritually speaking, they are “round about the throne” in the heavenly throne room of God. They are one with Him who sits on the throne. And with one another.

This royal priesthood is our calling “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.” It is a calling from above—the “on-high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” It’s something that originated not in our own heart but in “Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…” so that we can go to Heaven after we die? That, beloved, is less than His love has washed us for. “…And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 1:5,6). No less than this is what “the things above, where Christ is” means, and unto this honour we are called; this is our great privilege—to draw near to the throne of grace, draw near boldly as priests who have a great high priest over the house of God, draw near and join Him in His priestly intercession for others from the throne of God.

The whole creation “under the sun,” groaning and travailing in pain together until now, awaits the outcome of this.

Majestic Lowliness

Long ago while watching over his flock at night, a young shepherd looked up at the starry sky, overawed by it all, as many of us have been as often as we have looked up. David the sweet psalmist of Israel took up his lyre and began to sing to the One who created it all:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet… (Ps 8:3-6)

“What is man that Thou art mindful of Him?” Many of us have wondered that too. Why, God? Why are you interested in man? In me? There’s a lot compressed in that beautiful psalm—being made for a little lower than the angels, then being crowned with glory and honour…  What is all that about? And this—Thou visitest him… What’s that about?

It means more than to just pay a visit to someone. The word has the thought of watching over, attending do, caring for with deep concern.

Here is how it is best described. There came a day when the One who created the moon and the stars that David with great wonder was looking up to… He came down:

And the word became flesh…

Who is this—the Word?  Let’s read this more fully.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (Jn. 1:1-3 NKJV)

And then down to verse 14:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we have contemplated his glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a father), full of grace and truth…

That astonishes me, overawes me. The Word by whom all things were created—all things in heaven and in earth, whether visible or invisible (which would include the myriads of angels) as the apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:16—this One became flesh, became human, and “dwelt” among us. The Man Christ Jesus born in Bethlehem was God dwelling—“tabernacling,” or tenting, you might say—among men.

How lowly of God, the God who created all things, that He should do this, become incarnate as a human being. The whole story of Jesus’ birth is… how can I describe it? It is majestic in lowliness: it turns to tinsel all other majesty. He did not swoop down from Heaven full grown, a king in royal robes. He was born a helpless baby, the firstborn of a virgin teenager espoused to a poor carpenter. They had come to Bethlehem  because Caesar Augustus had called for a world-wide census and Joseph was required to register there.

Bethlehem itself was not a great city, it was a little town:

 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

You can be sure that in calling for this census, the great, the majestic, the august Caesar, the ruler of the whole known world at that time, whom all in his empire were to worship as god… you can be sure he knew nothing of this ancient prophecy. There’s something else he didn’t know. The very idea of being anybody’s servant would have been contemptible to him, yet here he is, unknowingly serving the purpose of the August God of Heaven and earth who “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.”

Enter Joseph of the lineage of David, and Mary, who called herself a handmaid of the Lord (Lk 1:38). It’s not likely they had this prophecy in mind when they set out from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But they knew they were in the will of God, and were simply complying with what Joseph was required to do.

There was no room for them in the local caravansary; many others had returned to Bethlehem for this same purpose. So Jesus was born in a stable, and laid in a manger. His first visitors were shepherds who had been watching their flock by night when an angel declared to them the Good News of His birth.

This is the Word by whom all things in Heaven and earth were created? Born like this?

Yes. It was all part of the God of immeasurable greatness revealing Himself in  great lowliness. How could one so incomparably great but do otherwise?

Yet this was only the beginning of His identifying Himself with man. Here is the incarnation in the words of the apostle Paul:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Php 2:5-11).

What depths of lowliness are these? He who created all things was born a human being, and going further, humbled Himself unto death—not an honourable death, but the death of a despised criminal, so that no human being fallen to the depths of sin and depravity should be beyond the reach of His arm and His heart.

I bow the knee, dear Lord, I bow my knee—and my heart. You are mindful of man. You demonstrated it by visiting him. I know this personally. You showed yourself mindful of me years ago, and visited me in a time when my world had caved in around me… and You are with me to this day. I am so thankful. I love you, and worship you, thankful that where broken hearts humble themselves to walk with You, “the dear Lord enters in.”

I love that old hymn by Phillips Brooks. Here’s a link if you’d like to sing it along with me. I’ve followed it with another: Maker of the Universe by Phil Keaggy. It’s not really a Christmas song, but it’s what His incarnation ultimately meant.

O Little Town of Bethlehem – Carols (A Christmas Project) Lyric Video – YouTube

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see Thee lie
Above Thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in Thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And, gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the Holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in.

O Holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in

Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Maker of the Universe by Phil Keaggy – YouTube

The Maker of the universe,
As Man for man was made a curse.
The claims of Law which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.

His holy fingers made the bough,
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed.

He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.

The sky that darkened o’er His head,
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun that hid from Him its face
By His decree was poised in space.

The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.

The throne on which He now appears
Was His for everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow.



Realized Eschatology

I know how you feel, the first time I read those formidable words I needed aspirin too. But be of good cheer, I soon discovered that I didn’t need to be a theologian to understand this. In fact if we walk by faith and not by sight we ourselves are involved in realized eschatology. I’ll explain what it means in a moment, but first, let’s read a helpful insight by Bible scholar F.F. Bruce (1910-1990). He is commenting on the heroes of faith in Hebrews Chapter 11:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 ASV). Our author might well have proceeded from Ch.10:39 to the exhortation, “Therefore… let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Ch. 12:1) but first he encourages his readers further by reminding them of examples of faith in earlier days. In Old Testament times, he points out, there were many men and women who had  nothing but the promises of God to rest upon, without any visible evidence that these promises would ever be fulfilled, yet so much did these promises mean to them that they regulated the whole course of their lives in their light. The promises related to a state of affairs belonging to the future; but these people acted as if that state of affairs were already present, so convinced were they that God could and would fulfill what He had promised. In other words, they were men and women of faith. Their faith consisted simply in taking God at His word and directing their lives accordingly; things yet future so far as their experience went were thus present to faith, and things outwardly unseen were visible to the inward eye. It is in these terms that our author now describes the faith of which he has been speaking. It is, he says, the hypostasis of things that are hoped for…. That is to say, things which in themselves have no existence as yet become real and substantial by the exercise of faith. (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids, 1964, pgs 277,278)

Now for our definition of realized eschatology, and it’s actually quite simple. Eschatology is built from two Greek words in the same way zoology, psychology, and archaeology are built. The suffix logos, meaning originally word, has in English come to imply study. The prefix eschatos means last or final, as in “last days” (2 Tim. 3:1). So eschatology involves the study of end times, and because “we know in part,” it has produced endless debate over things like the rapture and the tribulation and the second coming and what has been called the millennial kingdom. (We’re not getting into any of that here.)

In general usage realize means to understand something. “I realize that, I understand.” But in realized eschatology it means made real. And obviously there comes a time when eschatological things are no longer in the future, God is faithful, God is true, and so they have finally arrived, they are at last fulfilled, made real. But does this mean that these things are held in abeyance till their time arrives? Not for those who by faith realize them now. In the above quote F.F. Bruce wrote, “The promises related to a state of affairs belonging to the future, but these people acted as if that state of affairs were already present, so convinced were they that God could and would fulfill what He had promised. In other words, they were men and women of faith.”

That is the essence of realized eschatology, and it answers a question that was to me for years a great perplexity—why the inspired writers of the New Testament often speak of a present possession as something yet to come. If I have eternal life now, why is it yet to come? If the kingdom is here now, why is it yet to come? It’s a matter of realized eschatology—by faith living now in the good of the great salvation yet to come. It means walking now in what God has promised down the road. Yes, their wonderful fulfillment is yet future, but they may be realized even now by those whose love for God and faith in Him lays hold of His promises; we are so sure of Him who promised that we walk in the good of the promises before their fulfillment has arrived.

I am borrowing from F.F. Bruce when I use those words. Commenting on Abraham’s faith he wrote, “To Abraham the promise of God was as substantial as its realization. He lived thereafter in the good of that promise.” (F.F. Bruce, Hebrews, pg 296)

Now let’s look at another comment on realized eschatology by  F.F. Bruce. (I think you may be realizing that I quite like him.) I’ll quote the Scripture he is referring to first.

Giving thanks to the Father who did make us meet for the participation of the inheritance of the saints in the light, who did rescue us out of the authority of the darkness, and did translate us into the reign of the Son of His love” (Col 1:12,13 YLT).

…When he affirms that believers have already been brought into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, Paul gives us an example of truly realized eschatology. That which in its fullness lies ahead of them has already become true in them. “Whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). The fact that God has begun a good work in them is the guarantee that it will be brought to fruition in the day of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil 1:6). By an anticipation which is a real experience and not a legal fiction they have received here and now the glory that is yet to be revealed. “The inheritance of the saints in the light” has not yet been manifested in its infinite wealth, but the divine act by which believers have been rendered meet for it has already taken place. The divine kingdom has this two-fold aspect through the New Testament. It has already broken into this world by the work of Christ (cf. Matt. 12:28, Luke 11:20); it will break in one day in the plenitude of glory which invests Christ’s parousia. Those who look forward to an abundant entrance in resurrection into that heavenly realm which “flesh and blood” (the present mortal body) cannot inherit (1 Cor. 15:50) are assured at the same time that this realm is already theirs. (F.F. Bruce, Ephesians and Colossians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids, 1957, pg 189)

I love the way Bruce expresses that our being transferred “into the kingdom of the Son of His love” is “not a legal fiction.” It is not merely a standing. It is a state, a reality, a fact, not a fiction, that we are now in that kingdom which is yet to come in its plenitude.

And so… realized eschatology. Doesn’t this give us an insight into the heart of God and His divine “impatience” (if I dare use that word)—He just can’t wait—to see that those who love Him and desire by faith to please Him enjoy even now in this present evil world the riches of His glory that has not yet arrived?

Facets of realized eschatology

This truth—that things to come, end things, eschatological things, may be realized even now by faith—shines throughout Scripture in many beautiful facets of the Jewel Christ Jesus. Here are a few of those facets, which I will just touch on and leave for you to explore further.

  • Our salvation

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:27,28).

Our Salvation, then, is yet to appear. But He has also appeared:

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…” (2 Tim. 1:8-10 NKJV).

Notice that: “…who has saved us…” A present possession. And so we are saved, yet await the coming of our Salvation.

It is a very great salvation, and we are its heirs, as we read in Hebrews 1:14. “Are they [the angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation?”

Again from Bruce: “The salvation here spoken of [in Heb. 1:14] lies in the future; it is yet to be inherited, even if its blessings can already be enjoyed in anticipation. That is to say, it is that eschatological salvation which, in Paul’s words, is now ‘nearer to us than when we (first) believed’ (Rom. 13:11) or, in Peter’s words, is ‘ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Pt. 1:5).” (F.F. Bruce, Hebrews, pg 25)

  • The life to come

“For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). By “the life to come” he means the eternal life for which we wait with great expectation.

But even now those who believe have eternal life. John 3:16 you will know by heart. Here’s another. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn. 5:13).

  • The resurrection

The “life to come” is resurrection life. But in order to participate in this last-day resurrection we must first be realizing eternal life in our mortal bodies. For Jesus said, “He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last [eschatos] day” (Jn. 6:54). (It is a spiritual reality—the bread and drink of life—that Jesus has in mind when He talks of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. See John 6:62,63).

Yet God has provision for us to walk in resurrection life before that great day. Martha told Jesus that she knew her brother Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection at the last [eschatos] day” (Jn. 11:24). That was good theology. Yet Jesus’ response was, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

This of course is the mainstay of the Christian life and walk that we read of so often in the epistles of Paul, that “in Christ” we realize resurrection life before the day of resurrection. Baptized into Christ we are made alive together with Christ, and are raised together with Him, and seated together with Him in the heavenlies… (See Eph. 2:4-10, Col. 2:11,12, Rom 6:1-4).

  • The kingdom of God

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18). So that kingdom is yet ahead.

But the kingdom of God that is yet to come is at the same time now present. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20). Here Paul speaks of that kingdom as a present reality. Jesus speaks of it as present and growing to fullness in the earth (Mk 4:26-29.

Yet its fullness is utterly beyond the capacity of a body of flesh and blood. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50). Along with those in the grave, our present bodies must be changed, and will be changed “at the last trump” so that in glorified bodies we are enabled to inherit and enjoy the fullness of the kingdom of God.

  • The adoption

Similarly, the fullness of the adoption, the “son-placing” awaits the redemption of the body from its bondage to corruption. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22,23).

Even so, we who have received the Spirit of God’s son realize the adoption now. God is even now our own Father. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15).

  • The regeneration

Jesus speaks in Matthew 19:28 of “the regeneration.” This has in view the new creation; a regeneration has taken place, and the whole creation (the universe) has been released from its bondage to corruption. It is a promise long standing. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come to mind” (Isa. 65:17).

But—how amazing is this—“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17 NKJV). And so we who are born from above realize regeneration even now, although it has not reached our mortal bodies. That is yet to come. (See Titus 3:5 and John 3:3-8.)

  • The City of God

It is a city which is yet to come. “For here have we no continuing [abiding, lasting] city, but we seek one to come” (Heb. 13:14).

Yes, but we have come to the City which is yet to come. “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” (Heb. 12:22). Even now, then, we may walk the golden street of this City, and drink of the pure stream of the water of Life and eat of the fruit of the tree of Life.

  • The marriage of the Lamb

This City is a Bride whose marriage is yet to come. And “blessed are they who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:6-9). That day is coming!

O day of wondrous promise!
The Bridegroom and the Bride
Are seen in glory ever;
And love is satisfied.

Yet that union is realized even now in those who are “married to Another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4).

Oh what wonders. It is all just too much. Wonders yet to come. The same wonders now realized in those who walk by faith.

And this I say—that only those who seek to realize now by faith what is yet to come will enjoy these wonders when the hour comes that they are fulfilled.

That hour surely comes, the hour of fulfillment comes. And love is satisfied, and the Christ of glory who is the origin in whom and from whom all the facets of truth shine forth, He who is the source and sum of all the promises, He whom our soul loveth… we see Him face to face. And are joined with Him in everlasting union to become together the revelation of the glory of God.

Yet—let us never get used to this grace of graces—He whom we see not yet has by His Spirit come to us so that even now we may realize that joining, that companionship, that friendship, that fellowship with Him in which we delight and He delights as much as we do. He loves being with us. Here and now. Daily, day upon day. Till the end of the age. Really, what more could one wish?

Well, yes, I know. But let it be with us as William Gurnall wrote of a dying saint, “He was going to change his place but not his company.”


Faithfulness As A Mystery Unfolds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God was with him

Let me quote more fully that verse from Acts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the dreams?

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

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

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

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

Where did that lead him?

Where did it lead our Lord?

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

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

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

On The Resurrection Side Of Death

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

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

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

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

Reckon that thou art on the resurrection side of death.

That is, now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Will Yet Glorify His Name… Again

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We have been talking about the increase in momentum in our world, and how there has been a great casting off of restraint that began in the 1960s.  It has reached the point where now they are redefining marriage.   Redefining the family.  What is next?  Christians who cry against it are considered a menace to society.  They are a threat to the new social order.  Why don’t those Christians get with the momentum and recognize that Christianity is antiquated and belongs in the museum of history?

Many Christians, of course, are doing just that.  The problem is those stubborn Christians who will not go with the flow.  So right here in North America we are beginning to see Christians being persecuted, and it will come to the place where to be a Christian in North America will cost you your job—and your liberty, and your life.  The enemies of Christ and his followers will not stop till they have eradicated His name—and those who bear His name—from the earth.

What is God’s response to this?

 He that sitteth [enthroned] in the heavens shall laugh.  The Lord shall have them   in derision…. Yet have I set my king upon My holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2:6).

God has set His king upon His holy hill of Zion, and no forces in the universe can remove Him from there.  He is seated there ruling in the midst of His enemies, and will yet see all His enemies put under His feet.  In the meanwhile, things may look very bleak, but we must lean hard on the knowledge that Christ is on the throne, and that God will yet glorify His great and holy Name.

We must lean hard in this hour on the knowledge that God is a God of integrity.  God is a God of His word.  He has not forgotten His word.  What He begins He will finish.  He has begun a great eternal purpose “ which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11).  In fact the word purposed there is better translated, accomplished.  It is that certain.  And so the eternal purpose He accomplished in Christ will yet be fully wrought out in the Heavens and in the earth.  God will have things His way.  He will glorify His great and mighty Name.

BUT, do we not realize that it is through the Church that God glorifies His Name?

 Unto Him be glory in the church in Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end (Eph. 3:21).

That would include this present generation, then.  This is very encouraging in a day when the glory of the Lord is not on the agenda of most churches here in the West.  Churches without number are preoccupied with their own programs.  They are content with the status quo—the way things are.  The glory of the Lord?  Who is burdened for that?

God is, and He will yet glorify His great and holy Name.  He has done it before.

When God’s people Israel for the most part would not receive His glory—His Son—and thus, as Paul put it, judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, God opened the door to the Gentiles—and in doing so enlarged His purposes exponentially.  This was in accordance with His promise to Abraham, and also the result of an oath He had sworn to Moses long ago. When Israel of old refused to enter the promised land in the days of Moses, God threatened that He would wipe them out and start afresh with another people out of the loins of Moses.  That humble man would have none of it and pled with God to forgive His people.  “Okay,” God said, “I have pardoned according to your word.  But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (See Num. 14:11-21).  This began in the day when He turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).  And what an hour that was!

However, only a blind man could say that this has come to any degree of fullness.  In fact the churches of the Gentiles, at least in the West, are now largely in a state of apostasy.  In this hour it is not the Jews, but Christians who have settled for less than the glory of the Lord.  And so the parable of the marriage supper holds as true today as it did when Jesus used it to provoke the Jews.  A great king had made a marriage supper for his son, and those who were bidden spurned the invitation.  What was his reaction?  He commanded his servants to go quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and into the highways and hedges, “and compel them to come in that my house may be filled.  For I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (Lk. 14:16-14; Mt. 22:1-14).

No, you say, that’s already fulfilled, that applied only to the Jews.  Really?  What about Paul’s warning concerning  “the goodness and severity of God”?  He warned that Gentiles who had been grafted into the olive tree of Israel could yet find themselves cut off if they do not continue in His goodness (Rom. 11:17-22).

And so there comes an hour when God, who has stood all the day long with open arms calling to His people to come to this supper, only to be slighted again and again… suddenly He turns and brings to Himself multitudes who were not even looking for Him—the despised, the rejected, the forsaken… and also in this hour—mark my words—multitudes from among the newly “liberated” LGBT world—multitudes, mark my words—who will discover in Christ a salvation and liberty that transforms them to the depths of their being, and satisfies their greatest longings far beyond anything they thought possible.  And He will give them all He offered those who would not come to Him when He called.  And more.

I Will Raise It Up

God has promised His Son that of all He has given Him He should lose nothing, but “raise it up in the last day” (Jn. 6:39).  What is this about?

“Of all that the Father has given Me I should lose nothing…”  Why does He prophesy that?  It’s because the truths that were vibrant, alive, in the days of the early church apparently died, were lost, throughout what are called the Dark Ages.  Then we saw the beginnings of the resurrection of truth in the days of the Reformation (although even through the Dark Ages there was always a small remnant that walked in revealed truth).  However, the reformers built denominations around the truth God had revealed to them, as did their contemporaries the Anabaptists.  The same thing has happened again and again through the history of the Church.  When God wanted to continue the reviving, the resurrection, of truth, His people chronically failed Him, would not move forward with Him into further truth.  And so God had to raise up a new people who would embrace the further truth, till they, in turn, would build a new denomination around this truth instead of going even further with God when He wanted to lead them further.  This has happened chronically throughout the history of the church.  This is what accounts for the system of denominations the world knows as Christianity.  It is a testimony of the failure of God’s people to flow in the river of God, and instead set up their denominational cisterns to contain their little puddle of truth, and further truth was lost to them—along with the glory of the Lord.  Truth is a river, not a puddle.  God’s desire is that we get into His river, and continue to flow all the way back to where the river came from—God Himself.

What does God do, then, with all this lost truth?  He gathers it all up in a last day, and raises it up from the dead, and gives it to a people who are not a people.  I pray with all my heart, and tears in my eyes, that I may be one of them.

God shall yet gather up all that seems to have been lost by previous generations—and truths that are yet hidden in Him that none have ever walked in—and shall give it all together to a generation that shall glorify His name.  A people despised, the scum of the earth, a people who in and of themselves are nothing, a people who were not a people, a people brought in from the highways and hedges and compelled to come in to God’s feast… these are the ones who shall fill the places of those who first invited had spurned the invitation.  They shall see, and reveal, the glory of the Lord.  He shall pour out such grace upon them that they shall glorify His Name as fully as God glorified His Name in His Son.

 And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people, there shall they be called the sons of the living God (Rom. 9:26,   Hos. 1:10).

I tremble at this.  I want to be numbered among them.  I want my seat at the Kings’s table along with them…

…And I am encouraged to remember that, along with these, there are those throughout all generations who have responded to the King’s invitation in their day.  These too shall He raise up along with the truth He is raising up, and they shall enjoy it in the last day with that generation (Jn. 6:39-40).

Know this.  God’s word shall be fulfilled. All the failures of former days have only intensified what is about to break forth like the waters of a dam backed up, backed up, backed up, till the pressure can no longer be contained, and suddenly it bursts.

God will yet again glorify His great and mighty name.





A Character Like God’s

In one of the early camp meetings I attended (it was 1974) George Warnock was speaking one evening on God’s eternal longing for a dwelling place.  After some length he quoted from memory this passage from Isaiah:

 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto Me?  And where is the place of My rest?  For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith   the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word (Isa. 66:1,2).

He went on to ask why it was that God was looking for someone who was poor and of a contrite spirit.

Then he said with much emotion, “It’s because if you only knew it… when God is finished with you, you’re going to have a character… like God’s.”

The words were branded into my heart.  They are there still.  Oh, to know this God, to know what He is really like… and be like Him.

Our God is a God of great power.  His understanding is infinite.  His greatness is unsearchable.  He created the universe with the word of His mouth.  How then can great buildings impress Him?  Or those who strive for a place among the stars?  He is the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity.  If that is the case, one would think that those in the heights are closer to Him—the rich, the powerful, the famous, the lofty, the proud.  But the high are far away from Him, and the lowly near.  It is in them that He finds the house—the fellowship, the family, the friendship—He longs for.  With those who are lowly.  Contrite.  Gentle.  Meek.  Patient.  Loving.  Just like Him.

This is His purpose in all His workings in our lives.  When it seems that our own goals are being frustrated, God has His own goal in mind.  He is working to bring forth a character like His own.  A character so infused with His Presence that others become aware of Him when they are with you.

Back in the days when Isaiah wrote that prophecy, the ritual offerings of bulls and goats along with the distinctive rites of their religion had become things the people gloried in, all the while forgetting God Himself.  Their temple was the most prestigious building in the world and they gloried in it, totally forgetting its purpose as the dwelling place for God’s name.  They boasted in their religion even while alienated from their God because of the pride of their hearts.

“You think you are special offering Me these offerings?” God challenged.  “Offer swine’s blood.  Go cut off a dog’s neck.  It’s all the same to Me.”

Even in the Christian life there is so much we can become involved in, so much we can glory in… our great church, our great program, our knowledge, our gift, our ministry, our work for the Lord… all the while forgetting what it is all about.  Beloved saint of God, He is looking for a dwelling place.  With those who are like Him.  If this is not our one pursuit, our reason for being, our whole Christian life… whatever else we are doing, whatever else we are involved in and offer Him by way of works and endeavours, even though they be things He Himself initiated, if we have lost sight of what God is seeking…  we might as well go and cut off a dog’s neck and give Him that, or offer Him swine’s blood.

God revealed much the same thing to the prophet Micah, telling him that He had shown him what He really wanted from him.  It was not the offering of thousands of rams or ten thousands of rivers of oil.  Nor could he give his firstborn for his transgression, the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul.

 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with Thy God (Micah 6:8).

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good?  When, Micah?  But this is prophecy; the Man in whom God would show this would not arrive on the scene for another 700 years.  When He did arrive, He would call others to walk with Him in His yoke and learn concerning Him—that He is meek and lowly of heart.  Who is meek and lowly of heart?


In whose yoke the lowly Son of God rested.

And did justly.  And loved mercy…

…And humbled Himself.

That’s how the margin of my Bible reads for the last phrase in Micah’s prophecy, “humble thyself to walk with God.”

This is what the Son of God did, He who had been in the form of God… humbling Himself in His walk with God even unto the death of the Cross.

I remember a moment in my life when I became aware that I was going to have to go through something I did not want to go through, something that would mean a very deep cross for me.  I was standing on my back step frightened, sorrowing… when I had a very strong impression that the Lord Jesus was standing right there beside me.  The only way He could have been more real is if He had been actually visible.  And I knew He was saying to me, “I will go through it with you.”  Somehow I knew that this meant He was willing to come down to do this.  It was not beneath Him to do so.  He would come alongside me, and go through with me the very thing that was bringing me low.

Over the years I have at times forgotten this.  What is more important to me?  To be delivered from the grievous circumstances of life, or to walk through them in fellowship with the lowly Lord Jesus?

And so there grows in the heart a cry for a character like God’s, a  great desire to know what He is really like, and walk with Him.  And suddenly we find Him answering that cry by leading us into things that humble us, bring us low.  Let us not think it strange when this happens.  Let us not be afraid.  Let us ask for eye salve that we might see Him right there… walking with us, and finding the companionship He is hungry for with those like Himself.  He wants—yes, wants—to walk with us.  Let us humble ourselves to walk with Him, then…

…And, in turn, let us walk with those in low places who need someone to walk with them.

It must be this phrase from Micah that inspired the old hymn by Johnson Oatman Jr.  Here are the words; the music can be found on Cyberhymnal:

If thou wouldst have the dear Saviour from heaven
Walk by thy side from the morn till the even,
There is a rule that each day you must follow:
Humble thyself to walk with God.

Humble thyself and the Lord will draw near thee,
Humble thyself and His presence shall cheer thee,
God will not walk with the proud or the scornful,
Humble thyself to walk with God.

Just as the Lord in the world’s early ages
Walked and communed with the prophets and sages,
He will come now if you meet the conditions:
Humble thyself to walk with God.

Just as a stream finds a bed that is lowly
So Jesus walks with the pure and the holy,
Cast out thy pride, and in heartfelt contrition,
Humble thyself to walk with God.

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