Category Archives: God’s Eternal Purpose

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 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 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?

God.

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: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/h/u/m/humblets.htm

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.

Chorus:
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.

A People With A Destiny

I am reading through my Bible again and am in the book of Joshua.  This is very timely, for there is an urgency in my spirit, a renewed emphasis, on apprehending our salvation—our spiritual heritage.

We Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, have a spiritual heritage unto which we have been predestined, just as Israel of old was predestined to the heritage of Canaan—even before they were born.  They were predestined to an earthly inheritance because of the promise God made Abraham long before they were born.

And their inheritance was marked out beforehand for them; it was given them by lot.  They didn’t cross the Jordan and then have some sort of land rush, hoping to grab the best parcels of land before anyone else.  Rather, Joshua divided their inheritance to them (Josh. 1.6), and he did it by lot (Josh. 13.6, 14.2).  In other words, it was not actually Joshua, but God Himself who decided what portion each one was to possess.  This assured that every Israelite, the small as well as the great, the weak as well as the strong, received a portion in the land.  Ezekiel confirms this in what I believe is a prophecy foreshadowing our inheritance in the Spirit.

And ye shall inherit it, one as well as another… (Ezek. 47.14).

What an encouraging hope.  Oh how we admire the great saints, and wistfully wish we could be like them.  But this wondrous heritage in the Spirit is not just for the great saints; God will not be satisfied, God will not rest, till each and every true Christian, the small as well as the great, has apprehended his or her inheritance.

And so, like the Israelites of old, we too are a people with a destiny.  I think it’s likely Paul is drawing a parallel to Israel of old when he says in Ephesians (which perhaps could be called the New Testament book of Joshua) that God has predestined us “unto the adoption” (Eph. 1.5) and also unto an inheritance (Eph. 1.11).  It is a heavenly inheritance—a realm of abounding “spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ” (Eph. 1.3).  It is also a realm that must be conquered (Eph. 6. 10-20).  Spiritual forces of wickedness “in the heavenlies” must be overcome, just as the Israelites of old had to drive out their enemies in the land God had given them before they could possess it.

And what is this all about?  Why did God bring Israel of old into their inheritance?  Why did He redeem them from Egyptian bondage, bring them through the wilderness, and into the land He had promised them?  Ultimately it was that He Himself might be glorified, that He might make Himself a glorious Name (Ex. 15.11-17, 2 Sam. 7.23, Isa. 63.11-14).

So it does not surprise us to find Paul saying that this same motive is what is back of God’s purpose in eternal redemption and in bringing the redeemed into their inheritance.

It is “to the praise of His glory” that He has predestined us unto the adoption (Eph. 1. 4-7).

It is “to the praise of the glory of His grace” that those who first hoped in Christ are predestined to an inheritance (Eph. 1.11).

And, it is “to the praise of His glory” that this inheritance shall, in the day of redemption, be fully possessed (Eph. 1.14, 4.30).

This I am sure is what Peter has in mind when he talks of a salvation “ready to be revealed in the last time.”  He says this salvation is a living hope unto which we have been begotten, and which he describes as “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in the heavens for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pt. 3-5).

That’s so encouraging.  Everything in this world is corruptible, defiled, fading.  This heavenly inheritance is incorruptible.  It can’t be defiled, and it never fades away.  Even after so long a time it’s still there… waiting for you and me.

Notice that word reserved.  There’s an inheritance in the heavenly realm with your name on it.  Reserved for ________.  No one else can have it.  In fact I don’t need yours, and don’t want it; there’s one with my name on it too.

And no, Peter doesn’t mean that when we die and go to Heaven we finally get to keep our reservation.  He says this salvation is “ready to be revealed in the last time.”  It’s for here.  It’s for now… “in the last time.”

Notice also that you and I are being kept for this reservation.  We are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Yes, the trial of our faith is very great… and at times, oh, so severe.  But oh, how precious it is, more precious than gold that perishes!  Gold will perish one day, but this inheritance, this salvation, will never perish.

Let us hold fast our faith, then, though it be tried by fire, and thus be ourselves ready for this salvation that is ready to be revealed, this inheritance that is reserved for us.  The time is at hand!  We have an appointment with a destiny!  Let us keep it!

We Have A Faithful Mediator

It is a great encouragement to me in these unstable times to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ will be faithful to mediate the New Covenant.

With all the troubling things taking place in our world, with all the forebodings of dark things ahead, we need this assurance—that no matter what happens, He who sits on the highest throne in the universe has been given a mandate to fulfill a covenant in God’s chosen, and He will not rest till He has done so.

Who are the chosen?  They are those, whether Jew or Gentile, who have been brought into covenant relationship with God through their faith in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

And what is the covenant?

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts… (Heb. 8.10).

God made this covenant originally with the house of Israel, and then brought the Gentiles into it.  I am glad.

And what does the completed covenant look like?

It looks like a people who look just like Jesus Christ the Son of God Himself.

In fact Isaiah tells us twice that He Himself is the covenant.  Isaiah prophesies of a certain Servant, whom we know from the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and Acts 8.35 to be the Lord Jesus Christ.

Behold My Servant, whom I uphold, Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth… I the LORD have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thine hand, and will keep Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles… (Isa. 42.1,6).

Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped Thee: and I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages…” (Isa. 49.8).

The old covenant (no longer in effect) was the laws and statutes God gave Israel on Sinai.  The new covenant (now in effect) is the laws of God written within our very hearts and minds—that is to say, Christ Himself.  “I will give Thee for a covenant…”

This is why Jesus in His great high priestly prayer concludes by saying:

I have made known unto them Thy Name, and will make it known, that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them (Jn. 17.26).

Notice how He says that.  The love of God in them is one and the same thing as “I in them.”  That is the fulfillment of the new covenant in our lives—the same love that was in Jesus now in you and me, to the extent that it is actually Christ Himself come to full maturity in you and me.

And this is why John says that when love with us is made perfect (that is how the original Greek reads: “Herein is love with us made perfect…” 1 Jn. 4.17)  …when love-with-us is made perfect, or has come to full maturity, we shall have boldness in the day of judgment, “because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 Jn. 4.17).

Yes, in this world, and this is a time of judgment and great upheaval.

And this is why Paul says that God’s purpose is that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8.29).  And that nothing can hinder this purpose of God.  In fact, we know that God is working all things together for good in the lives of those who are called according to this purpose (Rom. 8.28).

What good, Paul?  What is this good that you have in mind?

For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8.29).

This is the good Paul is speaking of, the purpose God is working toward in this world, and He will cause all things to work together and help Him out in this great eternal purpose of His.

So whatever happens in these last days, whether cataclysmic world events, or troubles closer to home in our own lives and families, let us continue to embrace and rest in the promise, and keep our eyes and our faith fixed on Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

He will not fail nor be discouraged till He has accomplished the work God gave Him to do, and surveys it all, and says, “Perfect.  Amen.”

Keep The Feast Of Tabernacles

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A few days ago I had not spent the necessary time waiting, seeking, praying, till I had the assurance of the Presence of the Lord in my heart before venturing into my day. And so I suffered most of the day with a troubled heart.  Yes, I know, foolish me.  At the same time I know it’s not always foolishness; these are increasingly difficult days; we are up against Egypt and Babylon—a world system built from the ground up to shut God out.  But when I could endure it no longer I finally found a quiet place and bowed my head and opened my heart to my Lord.  I am so thankful for His mercy.  It was not long before His Presence seeped into my heart and washed out the troubles.  And He began to speak to me.  Oh, the preciousness of hearing His Voice again!  I am sure He could hear mine—the troubled bleating of one of His sheep who had temporarily lost his way.  But as soon as I heard the Voice of my Shepherd I had my bearings again; I knew where I was, and where I was going—that is, where I was being led.

Oh the assurance, the comfort, of His Voice!  And instead of the troubles I found these words in my heart—“Keep the feast of tabernacles.”  I knew immediately this was a reminder, for it was a word He had spoken into my heart many years ago.

When the children of Israel returned from their Babylonian captivity in the days of Nehemiah they discovered in the book of the law that they were to keep the feast of tabernacles—Succoth, or Booths—in the seventh month.  This is something they could not do in the land of their captivity; it was to be kept in their own land in the place God designated.

Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty (Dt. 16:16).

That’s a promise—that they would not appear before Him empty—and the place was of course Jerusalem, the city God had chosen for His temple, His dwelling place.  And so here in Nehemiah we find the children of Israel who have returned from the Babylonian captivity gathering together in Jerusalem in the seventh month.

Let’s quickly review the events.  On the first day of the month—the day of the sounding of trumpets that initiates the feast of tabernacles (Lev. 23:24)—Nehemiah read from the book of the law, and the Levites with him “gave the sense” (Neh. 8:8).  That is, they caused the people to understand what was written.  This is the true significance of the feast of trumpets—the sounding forth of the word of the Lord in a way that opens the understanding to what is hidden in the letter of precept and prophecy.

It’s interesting to note, by the way, that when Nehemiah gives the names of the Levites who are standing with him, six are on his right and seven on his left, making fourteen altogether.  In other words, as a friend pointed out to me once, Nehemiah himself was not in the centre here.  Who was in the centre, then?  It’s a beautiful picture of corporate leadership in the church, in which no one man, but Christ Himself, is always to be in the centre.

There is much in this passage and we can’t cover it all here.  For one thing, there is no mention of the Day of Atonement, which is the very heart of the feast of tabernacles.  Not that they bypassed this day—as many have done in our day.  This is what accounts for the great uncleanness in much of the present-day feasting in the Charismatic realm.  People have wanted to keep the Feast without keeping the Fast (as the Day of Atonement was called.)  But to celebrate the feast of tabernacles without first keeping the fast of the Day of Atonement is a recipe for deception.  Without being broken before the Lord in great repentance and sorrow at the foot of the Cross…  without apprehending His atonement for sin… without His cleansing… no wonder the feasting of our day is so unholy and shallow and full of all manner of uncleanness and carnality. “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep,” cries James.  “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness” (Jas. 4:9).

This is what happened in Nehemiah’s day; there was great repentance when the people discovered what God called for in His Law.  The people mourned.  God’s reaction to their mourning?  He rejoiced to see it!  (In our day the reverse is true: the carnal rejoicing fills Him with sorrow.)  But then God in turn told the people to dry their tears and make His joy their own.  Don’t weep any further, He told them, “For the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).

And so in accordance with the newly-discovered Law, the people now went forth “unto the mount,” and gathered branches:

…olive branches, and pine (wild olive) branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.
And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so.  And there was very great gladness (Neh. 8:15-17).

I believe we have here a beautiful prophetic picture that is fulfilled in the city of God, the bride of Christ, the church.  With the help of the Holy Spirit we lift up our eyes from this Old Testament passage and see in the day of Christ the people of God gathered together as one.  They have come together from all places where they have been scattered among the denominations, have come together in the new Jerusalem the city of God to keep the longed-for feast, the great feast, the feast of tabernacles.  They are one in the Spirit with no doctrinal or denominational divisions.  They are dwelling together in unity, and their Lord is dwelling with them.  Not that they are all together in one huge building; they are dwelling in booths—little arbours of branches entwined together.  Succoth in fact comes from a root meaning “to entwine.”  It is a beautiful picture of the humble little fellowships the Lord has in mind for His people in the City of God.  A few “branches” are knit together in love, their lives are intertwined with one another… and with the life of the Man “whose name is The Branch” (Zech. 6:12).  He Himself is dwelling with them.  He is their tabernacle, and they are His tabernacle.

Israel was to commemorate this feast annually as a reminder of the day they came out of Egypt.

Ye shall dwell in booths seven days… that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 23:42,43).

When they came out of Egypt this was actually the name of their first encampment in the wilderness—Succoth, or Booths (Ex. 12:37, Num. 33.5).  They had left all behind; the little booth of branches was all they had now.  In the same breath, nothing else had a hold on them either!  They were no longer slaves, they were free!  Their God had liberated them from the iron furnace, from Egyptian bondage, from the servitude of building Pharaoh’s treasure cities.  They had left all the security of Egypt behind them for a flimsy booth of branches… and their God!

And so here in the days of Nehemiah the people are keeping the feast of tabernacles once again.  Do you see them—multitudes of rejoicing people camping in these little arbours of branches?  Wherever you look, there they are—in the streets of Jerusalem and in the courts of the house of the Lord and on the rooftops of their houses…  They are detached from it all—from their homes, their possessions, their jobs, their troubles, their cares, their fears….  Oh, but what about this, Lord?  What about that?  No, He says, you just keep the feast of tabernacles.  I’ll look after all that.

You touch the beauty of it and suddenly your breath catches in your throat.  There is a secret here.  A shelter of branches, so insecure, so weak… yet you are touching immeasurable strength and provision.  A flimsy shelter of branches…  and you are canopied under the eternal God.  The branches intertwined with one another speak of the corporate relationship, the individual branches themselves of the abiding relationship.  It’s a picture of the Christ-life, really, which we are to know both individually and corporately, the beautiful life of Christ Himself, the Life of the ages, which was with the Father and was manifested to us, the Life that is more than meat and raiment, the life that is free from the bondage of sin… and from the shackles of this present evil world, the life that is free from all the things that the Gentiles seek, “free from corroding care,” free to walk with God and worship Him in Spirit and in truth—at all times and in all circumstances.

It is the life free from the troubles and entanglements and cares of this world even while we are yet in the midst of them, the Life into which we ourselves have been immersed because of the Holy Spirit.  We become mingled with one another, and with the Son of God Himself.  Jesus promised this would be the result of the sending forth of His Spirit, saying, “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you” (Jn. 14:20).  (Note well the plural here: “at that day ye shall know… ye in me, and I in you…”  If Christ is in me and in my brother as well, there can be no more division between us than there is between Father and Son.)

This, of course, is something that was inaugurated at Pentecost; Jesus had in mind the sending of the Spirit when He said this.  “At that day ye shall know…”  But Pentecost is “the earnest of the Spirit,” the pledge, the guarantee, that is given us assuring a redemption, a great fullness yet to come (Eph. 1:13,14; 4:30).  Pentecost is the feast of firstfruits (Ex. 23:16).  There is a greater harvest yet to come—“the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year.”  The feast of tabernacles.  So Paul (I believe referring to the pentecostal baptism) speaks of having “the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23).  This is the guarantee of a great harvest yet to come, a festival of unbridled joy when the purposes of God in Christ and the church have come to ultimate fullness.

Nehemiah says that this feast had not been celebrated with such joy since the days when the Israelites first took the land in the days of Joshua—an interval of something like nine hundred years.  There were times in the days of the kings when it was observed, but apparently nothing like this.  I wonder if this, too, isn’t prophetic of the church.  Passover we know, and Pentecost we know.  Where is the feast of Tabernacles?  Yes I agree, the truths of the feast of tabernacles have been applicable to the whole church age; all through the history of the church there have been those who kept aspects of this feast… in a measure.  But I believe that now we are entering a time of fullness, and we are going to see a mighty outpouring of the Spirit, and we are going to see our Great Shepherd move His mighty arm and gather His lambs to His bosom and deliver them from all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.  I believe we are going to see these little “booths” of the feast of tabernacles springing up all over the land.  It is the City of God coming down out of Heaven from God.  The New Jerusalem.  And a great Voice says:

Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them… (Rev. 21:3).

He will tabernacle with them, the original says.  It’s the same word John used when he said, “The word was made flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us…” (Jn. 1:14).   But God dwelling in His Son… this was in anticipation of the day when He would tabernacle not just in the one Man, but in a whole City of men—the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the church.  Oh, the wonder of it all!  How our God has longed with great longings to keep this feast!

This is why some Christians these days are feeling they have outgrown their clothes, as it were.  The way they have done church for so long just doesn’t fit anymore.  Something in their heart is longing for more room.  It’s causing great alarm among those who consider this a threat to the old order and want it preserved.  But what is happening is of God.  He has something so much larger for His people—and for Himself.  That’s why some are being drawn to become intertwined with a few others in these little “booths.”  Didn’t I just say, larger?  How is this larger—little booths?  Gathering in a little booth like this seems very small when most are flocking to the mega-churches of our day.

But mark my words; these little booths are going to multiply.  These little booths by the thousands in the streets of the City of God all over the land—this is the only vessel large enough, compatible enough, to contain the glory of the Lord.

The New Man River

A few years ago my wife and I were at a picnic with some of her relatives along a river in southern Alberta called the Oldman River.  While they were visiting after the meal I went for a stroll over to the brink of the river.  I watched the water flowing and the swallows flying over a bluff on the opposite bank.  There was a sense of great age about the place; the sandstone along the bank had long since been worn smooth.  This Oldman River had been flowing for a long, long time, sustaining the creation all around it.

As I looked across the water, suddenly a very strong impression arrested me.  It wasn’t a vision, but I knew it was Spirit birthed.  On the other side of the river I could see in my mind’s eye a New Man, a new-creation man.  The thing that arrested me was…oh the simplicity of the life and walk of this Man.  Just as the earthly life is to the earthly man, just as sin is to sinners, life in the Spirit was simply nature to this man.

And I realized that this is all God is seeking.

Not that this Man has not yet come into being; He is here, and growing to full maturity, but usually is not recognized for who He actually is.  This is the major focus of the New Testament—the transition from one humanity to another, from one man to Another, from the first man Adam to the second Man, Christ, who is the outshining of the glory of God.  So we find this expression “in Christ” over and over again in the New Testament—77 times according to the Blue Letter Bible search function.  And what does it mean to be in Christ?

If any man be in Christ he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new (2 Cor. 5.17).

This new creation Man, as I said, is all God is seeking.  This is what church is all about—or should be: a new-creation Man who walks according to a new Rule of life—the rule of new creation life, which is hardwired in him; this law is written in his heart and mind.  So he walks in righteousness and holiness and life and love as simply and as easily as the old man walked in sin.

His life is sustained by a new River, the River of the Spirit of God.  The Newman River, I guess you could call it.  And not only does this River sustain this New Man, it also flows out from Him.  John saw this River proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb in the City of God.  It was running down the middle of the street of the City.  In other words, you would have to walk in the water to walk down the street—a beautiful picture of our walk in the Spirit.  In this City you must walk in the Spirit to get anywhere.

And the River flows outward, outward from the Throne of God.  And so the Throne of God and of the Lamb is in that river of the Spirit, bringing life and healing wherever it flows.  It brings an end to the curse God laid on the old creation.

Ezekiel saw this river.  He saw it flowing from the temple of God—this Man.  It began as a trickle.  The man in fine linen with the line of flax measured out a thousand cubits and led Ezekiel through the waters.  This happened four times at various depths—water to the ankles, to the knees, to the loins, till the river had become “waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over” (Ezek. 47.5).  Ezekiel could no longer touch bottom now, could not find a foothold on anything earthly for a sense of security.  He was moving in the total control of the Current of the river wherever that Current was going.

Beloved, God has this for us, a walk in the Spirit that is nature to us, instinct, and we are totally released from the law of sin and death—and from all that is earthly.  Moving out into these waters means we must let go of all our securities.

And our insecurities.  I’ve been thinking much of this—that the reason we hang on to our insecurities so tightly… it’s actually a sort of security to us, an attempt to secure our own little world.

But we must release our securities, let go of them—and our insecurities, and abandon ourselves to the Current of this River.  Being totally ruled by the Spirit of God is the answer to every problem we face either in our own lives or in the whole world.  Our own mental toilings are futile; in fact this itself is one of the problems.

It can be a very difficult thing to let go of thought patterns, to break the bondage of anxious or negative thought; we mull over things, dwell on them, feed on them: problems, troubles, difficulties.  The answer is to simply get into the Current of this River.  The New Man is no longer debtor to anything of the first man, the old man.  We are not debtors to his mode of thinking, to the carnal mind.  There is another mind, the mind of the New Man, the Lord from Heaven who has all things under His feet.

All things under His feet?  Because of this there is a great warfare for this Mind; it is fiercely resisted.  But we must wage this warfare and bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  For “the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8.6).  This is why Paul emphasized again and again that we are to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind,” that we are to “be renewed in the Spirit of our mind,” that we are to “put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him” (Eph. 4.23, Col. 3.10).

More and more we are going to see this new-creation Man in the earth, this Man I saw along the Oldman River that day.  We are going to see Him walking in the earth, walking in the Spirit… walking in this River that flows from the Throne of God… and which has that Throne in its waters.  That River, the New Man River, is Lord; it flows out from the Throne of God and of the Lamb, and therefore the Throne is in its flowing waters.

All those problems and difficulties that are growing more intense by the day… the New Man is the answer, the new creation Man with the mind of Christ.  And so we have great hope in the midst of the grievous things that are taking place in our world.  I believe we are entering days when men will despair of finding answers to the things that are coming upon the earth.  All the wisdom of the natural man is going to utterly fail, as the Bible prophesies (Jer. 49.7, Jer. 8.9, 1 Cor. 1.19,20).  The wisdom of the mind of Christ—the greater than Solomon—is the only wisdom that will avail.

A Time To Dance

Those who know me personally have assessed that I’m sort of a melancholy person; I’m not what you would classify as the dancing type.  But during a time of fasting recently I received some openings concerning the realm of the Spirit, and oh, let me tell you… there hasn’t been any great change in my circumstances as I had hoped (not yet that is) but even so, if I could dance, oh, how I would dance!  Oh, what God has for us in the realm of the Spirit!

This realm—the realm of the Spirit—is the Pathway, and the Place, of the new creation man.  How I rejoice for this!  The old creation is going into corruption right before our eyes at an astonishing rate.  You look back over your shoulder and it’s astonishing to see the acceleration that has taken place even over the last twenty years.  Not just in nature, it’s frightening to hear of the natural disasters—storms, tsunamis, earthquakes… this earth is a very unstable place.  But so is the world of Adam; the moral decay is even more frightening.

And so the old creation is disintegrating all around us on every hand.  How wonderful to know that God foresaw it all, and has prepared a new habitat for His new creation man.

There’s nothing like a fast to show you that you are joined to this earthly life by your stomach.  The apostle Paul said as much when he wrote (and he was weeping as he wrote) of certain ones he called “the enemies of the cross of Christ… whose god is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3.18).

By the “belly” Paul was not talking just of physical food; he meant the whole range of the earthly appetites of the natural man.  These are not necessarily sinful unless they are taken out of bounds, or become our sole preoccupation, which is the case with those in Adam.  The tragic thing is that in our day multitudes of Christians have fallen prey to this too—they are totally preoccupied with the pleasures and concerns of this life.  They are focussed on earthly things.  Their minds, their thoughts, are filled with earthly things.  No wonder Paul wept!  So should we!  Oh what the love of Christ at the expense of the Cross has wrought!  Oh, Christian, the vast inheritance in the Spirit that is yours now, and which by comparison makes all that is earthly nothing more than dung.

Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians reminding them that since they had been baptized into Christ they were “dead with Christ” and no longer lived in this world (Col. 2.12, 20).  Where did they live, then?  Let’s read it.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God (Col. 3.1).

So they were not only dead with Christ, they had also been raised with Him and were seated with Him in the heavenly realm at the right hand of God.  How could they settle, then, for the things of earth?  Paul urges them (and us):

Set your affection on things above, not on things of on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

My life is hid with Christ in God?  Oh, what a different and higher dimension is ours!  How sad, how pitiful, when we continue to worm our way around in the things of earth!  We don’t live here!  We are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God.

When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.

What must we be doing, then?

Mortify (put to death) your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence (lust), and covetousness, which is idolatry…

Notice this list.  As I said above, these are all the appetites of the earthly man, and there is nothing wrong with some of them as long as they are not out of bounds, and as long as they don’t become our total pursuit in this life.  We are to set our affection on things above, we are to mind things above, we are to be preoccupied with things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  This is our heritage.  This is our element.  This is our habitation.  This is where we live.

I must make this my own personal testimony then, and not just something I underline in my  Bible.  I must make it my personal testimony that I have a secret life.  A hidden life.  I live in a different realm than most men.  My life is hid with Christ in God.  And no man can take my life from me.  They might kill me, but they can’t take my life from me.  I might die somehow or other, but my life cannot be taken from me.

And so in this late hour when the world of the earthly man has become so purposeless a place, in fact is fast becoming too dangerous a place to live in, oh, why do we continue to live here?  Let us to shake ourselves from the dust!  Let us set our affection, our minds, our thoughts, on things above… not just wistfully from afar, but because we dwell there, it is our habitation, we live there!

Oh, what Christ has wrought in Calvary!  He brought an end to the first man, the Old Man, with all his sin and rebellion and sorrow and trouble and woe.  And brought into being a totally new man, a new creation Man who dwells in a totally new dimension—the Spirit of God!

Now, if that isn’t enough to cause you to dance and leap for joy I don’t know what is!

…I meant to tell you some of the things that were opened to me about this realm of the Spirit but I guess that will have to wait till next time.