Category Archives: God’s Eternal Purpose

The Presence That Shakes The World

It’s been a while since the last blog entry about God’s desire to dwell in the midst of His people, and I continue to find this strongly on my heart.  Our need for Him is beyond words these days.  How I long for Him—that is, that we His people be characterized not by the doctrines we hold or the churches we go to, but by this One Thing—that He Himself dwells in us, and so those around us are aware of His Presence!

No one has to prove the existence of God to me; I know by first-hand experience His Presence in my heart.  “Know ye not,” says Paul, “that ye are the temple of God, and that His Spirit dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3.16).  Yes, I do know.  The Holy Spirit dwelling in me means that I am a temple of God.  But oh for that same Presence I love so dearly to go forth so that others might know Him!  Surely if others could sense His Presence as I do they would love Him as I do.  Surely if others could see Him…  I remember years ago listening to an old taped message by Pentecostal preacher John Wright Follette.  He was an old man at the time, and he said with broken voice, “I don’t know why they didn’t love that young Man.”  It struck me that Follette called Jesus a young man.  But He was young.  He was only 33 when they crucified Him.  It pains me to think I as a young man actually had a hand in that.  He is so precious to me now.  One day in His Presence is better than a thousand years elsewhere.

Yet, there is something further to His Presence than this preciousness.  Isaiah cried out for the return of The Presence that would melt the mountains and make the nations tremble (Isa. 64.1-3).  This is what it meant, Moses’ cry, I mean—that the Presence of God Himself would go with them, that He would forgive their disobedience and not abandon His great desire and plan for a tabernacle in their midst so He could dwell with them on the way to Canaan.

And he said unto Him, If Thy Presence go not with me, carry us not up hence (Ex. 33.15).

God hearkened to Moses, and before long the tabernacle was prepared and set up, and the cloud of glory filled it, and they were on their way to Canaan together—the people and their God.

But what does this look like—God dwelling in His people and marching through the wilderness?

LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.
The mountains melted from before the LORD, [even] that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel. (Judges 5.4,5).

This is how the prophetess Deborah described the people coming through the wilderness of Seir on their way to the promised land.  “When thou wentest out of Seir…”  Yes, there was a vast multitude of people involved, but her prophetic eye was fixed on the One who had now taken up His habitation in their midst.  It was GOD in His people coming through the wilderness and entered Canaan the promised heritage.  And the earth was shaking, mountains were melting.

And remember—this is from the Song of Deborah the prophetess; this is a prophetic word for you and me.

Here is more from another prophet—the psalmist David.

When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah was His sanctuary, and Israel His dominion.
The sea saw it and fled, Jordan was driven back.
The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.
What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest, thou Jordan that thou wast driven back?
Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams, and ye little hills like lambs?

Yes, David, tell us; what was it?  What caused all this shaking?

Tremble thou earth at the Presence of the LORD, at the Presence of the God of Jacob,
Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters (Ps. 114).

Is your heart as hard as a rock at times?  Hard as flint?  That’s what His Presence can do—it can turn that dry hard wilderness place into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of water!

It (that is, He) can make a way through the sea—a way where there is no way.  His Presence—He Himself—can cause the Jordan waters of death to part and make a way over on dry ground!

His Presence can—and will—cause the mountains and hills (all the kingdoms of men) to shake!

Oh, to see this!  Oh to see these shakings!  But this is what the Presence of the Lord does!  Here is Israel coming up out of Egypt and becoming God’s sanctuary, the people in and from whom He rules and has dominion. He dwells in them and is enthroned in them.  It is not just a rag-tag band of former slaves coming into their promised land.  God dwells in them.  And so another prophecy:

God came from Teman (in the wilderness) and the Holy One from Mount Paran.

I will just quote bits of it here, but read that whole prophecy, Habakkuk Chapter Three.  It’s awesome.  (How I wish the word awesome hadn’t become so trivialized!  It means that something is fearsome, and fills you with trembling and awe.)  Habbakuk calls this prophecy a prayer.  Let it become our own prayer, then.

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran.  Selah.  His glory covered the Heavens, and the earth was filled with His praise…
Before Him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at His feet.
He stood, and measured the earth: He beheld, and drove asunder the nations, and the everlasting mountains were scattered, and the perpetual hills did bow…
The mountains saw thee and trembled…
The sun and moon stood still in their habitation…
Thou didst march through the land in indignation…

…All these great shakings taking place!  It is the prophetic imagery of the coming of the Lord… who dwells in His people, and together they dispossess the wicked inhabitants of Canaan from the land which is to become His people’s own inheritance.  This whole picture is highly prophetic of God’s intent in our lives—to accompany us into the heavenly realm and dispossess the principalities and powers of darkness who rule there over the hearts and minds of men in the earth.

But this will not happen apart from His Presence with us!  And so… oh, to see God’s people begin to hunger for His Presence in our midst!  And seek Him earnestly for this!  This is to be what characterizes us as the people of God.  And nothing less will do what needs to be done in this hour!  Nothing less will vanquish the forces of darkness, nothing less will break the bondages these forces of darkness hold over the inhabitants of the world and set them free.  Nothing less will remove the veil from their eyes so they can see openly the One who dwells in His temple—you and me!

I assure you, no one will be doubting the existence of God in that hour.  They will have all the proof they need right before their eyes.  And this is just how Habbakuk introduces his powerful prophetic prayer:

But the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him (Hab. 2.20).

Defined By His Presence

Sometimes I think I should write on every page of the Old Testament of my Bible the following words:

Unto us they did minister.

I am thinking of Peter’s words that the prophets of old greatly longed to know what the Spirit of Christ in them had in mind by the things they were prophesying when they “testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.”  They wondered when these things would take place, and realized it was not they themselves God had in mind when He inspired them to write these things.

To whom it was revealed that not unto themselves but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into (1 Pt. 1.12).

Unto us they did minister.  And so when I read my Old Testament I must continually bear this in mind.  These things were written for me, and I need to discover what God had in mind.  How does this apply to me in this present day?

We talked last time about God’s desire to dwell in the midst of His people when He brought them out of Canaan.  He was not content to stay up in Heaven and supervise their journey from there.  He wanted to dwell in their midst on the way.  And so when Moses went up into Mount Sinai to commune with God and receive the tablets of the Law, God instructed him to have the people bring an offering, “And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them”  (Ex. 25.8).

You mean the God of heaven actually wanted to come down and dwell in their midst?  What wondrous words!  Never before in the long history of this people had their God said anything like this!

Going to my New Testament I discover this same eternal desire of God’s, but it is not a tent of skins He desires for His dwelling place now.  It is you and I, who are “builded together an habitation of God by (or, in) the Spirit” (Eph. 2.22).

But I want to go back to my Old Testament and read further.  There is a solemn lesson there we dearly need to learn.   When Moses came back down the mountain with the tablets of the law and the instructions for building the tabernacle he was greeted with the sound of wild partying.  In his long absence the people had grown weary of waiting for his return.  They wanted to get on with their journey to Canaan.  And so they pressured Aaron, who took an offering from them—their golden earrings—and fashioned a golden calf that would go before them.  Now they were feasting and dancing around the calf in unbridled abandon, their enemies apparently watching them gleefully all the while (Ex. 32.25).

I don’t have to spell out how painfully this parallels our own day, and we all know the story of how Moses, when he saw what was happening, smashed the tablets of the law at the foot of the mount.

I encourage you to read the whole story; I can’t go through it all here.  I just want to compress one thing that has impacted my own heart deeply.

God told Moses that, as a result of this apostasy, He was done.  His anger was so hot that He was going to wipe this people out and make of Moses a great nation instead.  Unthinkable, Moses replied.  If you do that Your enemies will blame you, not them.  They’ll say Your intention in bringing them out of Egypt was to do them evil.

And so with this intercession Moses persuaded God to repent of the evil He said He would do (Ex. 32.14).  Was God was just testing Moses through this to see if He had a man who was beyond seeking gain for himself in the things of God?  I think that’s what is behind this.  I think God was secretly rejoicing to see Moses making intercession like that.

And as we read further we find Moses continuing to make intercession, because, although God changed His mind about wiping them out, He told Moses that He Himself would not go with them to Canaan now.  In other words, the sanctuary He had in mind, the tabernacle, the dwelling place for Himself in the midst of His people… yes, He had given Moses the plans for this in the mount.  But this was off now.  He would be faithful to keep His promise to Abraham, He would bring the people into the promised land.  But only by the hand of an angel.  He Himself would not go with them.

For I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people… (Ex. 33.3).

This was very bad news.  You mean God would not go with them any further?

And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned… (Ex. 33.4).

How encouraging to see the repentance, this time their own, and so once again Moses makes intercession on their behalf, speaking with God face to face “as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Ex. 33.11).

All this takes place within a few verses that we read too quickly, and so when we come to God’s response to this intercession it’s easy to miss its impact.  We know the outcome; Moses and the people did not.  The situation was very intense.  The people were back in the camp stricken with grief, wringing their hands and trembling, hardly able to cast even a glance toward the tent where Moses is speaking with God on their behalf.  What will He say?  Will He change His mind?  They are waiting with bated breath.

And God responds, “My Presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”  What a relief.  This is a complete reversal of what He said just a few verses earlier.  He had said He would send an angel to guide them to Canaan.  Now He says that His Presence shall go with them after all.  In other words, the plan for His tabernacle in their midst is on again.  And very shortly we find Moses in the mount again receiving further instructions for this.

Notice now Moses’ response to God’s words.

And he said unto Him, If Thy Presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.  For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight?  Is it not in that Thou goest with us?   So (or, by this) shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are on the face of the earth (Ex. 33.16).

I wonder how many churches would get very excited and consider themselves privileged if someone suddenly prophesied that God was about to commission an angel (or some renowned preacher) to take them to their destination… and would entirely miss the desire of the heart of God.  He Himself wants to dwell in our midst, each and every person in the church being part of this, and filled with His abiding Presence!

And when there is true repentance, oh how ready He is to visit us with His Presence.  Oh how He longs to hear those voices of repentance and intercession asking Him… and saying to Him, Lord, if you don’t go with us, we aren’t interested in going anywhere.  We’re not interested in church anymore if You Yourself are not present.  We are calling a halt to it all till Your Presence is dwelling in our midst.  It is this, not our creeds and doctrines and programs and activities and great preachers, but this—Your Presence—that is to be the defining characteristic of the holy people of God in the earth.

Is God Home?

Years ago I saw a cartoon in a religious magazine that showed a small boy standing on the doorstep of a large church.  Apparently he has just knocked on the ornate door, for the door stands open and a clergyman with his hand on the doorknob is looking down at him.  The little boy, neck craned upward, asks, “Is God home?”

How cute, eh.  Who but a child would expect God to actually be at home in the house of God?  But, out of the mouth of babes…

So let me ask a question.  Why did God save you and me?  Most likely we answer that He saved us because we needed salvation; we realized we were bound in sin and about to get our wages (death).

And that’s true.  But let me ask another question.  Why did God save Israel out of Egypt?  We need to know this, because the story of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt and entering into the Promised Land is one of the Bible’s great building blocks.  It’s this prophetic story by which God builds our understanding of His great plan of eternal salvation in Christ.  There are other building blocks, but as we read our New Testament we discover that this one is certainly a major one.  Paul tells us that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5.7), and this is of course a reference to the night Israel was delivered from Egypt by the Passover lamb.  Peter has the same event in mind when he tells us we have been “redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pt. 1.19).

Then on one occasion in the wilderness when the people were bitten by poisonous serpents, God directed Moses to set up a serpent of brass on a pole.  Whoever looked up at the brazen serpent was delivered from the poison at work in his system.  One moment they were on their way to the land of the dead; the next they were in the land of the living.  Jesus Christ selects this event to open our eyes to Himself, telling us that “even so must the Son of man be lifted up (on the Cross of Calvary), that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3.15).

And so with Israel’s salvation story, God opens our eyes to our own salvation story.

Which is why I asked those questions.  Why did God save you and me?  But why did He save them?  Once we discover the answer to why He brought them out of Egyptian bondage we will have a better understanding of His objective in our own salvation.

So let’s read what God had in mind by delivering Israel from Egyptian bondage.  Here are three verses in which we have God’s reasons from His own mouth.

I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright (Lev. 26.13).

This is the reason that most usually comes to mind when we think of why God brought them out of Egypt.  The Israelites in Egypt were under the grievous yoke of slavery.  They cried to God in their bondage and He sent a deliverer to set them free.  By the blood of the Passover lamb He redeemed them from “the house of bondmen” (Dt. 7.8), and they were happily on their way to the Promised Land.  This was their gospel—their good news.  And here we have a close parallel to our own Gospel, the Good News of our redemption in Christ Jesus, our salvation from the bondage of sin by the blood of Christ our Passover.  We have been redeemed, we are free!  But free to do what?  Here’s another verse:

For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy (Lev. 11.45).

This second verse tells us that God brought them out of Egypt to be their God.  What did He mean by this?  Wasn’t He their God in Egypt?  Yes, but bowed down in the yoke of bondage they were not free to worship Him.  He wanted to be their God… and He explained what being their God implies.  If God is to be their God, they must be holy—separated unto Him.  This they could not be while serving Pharaoh in the iron furnace.  God liberated them to the intent that they could worship and serve Him unhindered.  And since He is a holy God, this would mean holiness on their part, something that the New Testament writers enjoin on us as well.  Peter calls us to holiness, quoting the same words God commanded Israel when they came out of Egypt.

Be ye holy, for I am holy (1 Pt. 1.16, Lev. 11.44).

This brings us to another verse.  And to get the impact of it let’s put ourselves back there in Egypt.  We have known nothing but grinding slavery all our lives, and it would take an absolute miracle to be free.  But one day there is good news making the rounds among the slaves.  And suddenly the impossible miracle is actually happening!  Oh, what a Name this mighty God is making for Himself!  He judges Egypt and brings us out of Egypt and parts the Red Sea and brings us through and utterly destroys our enemies… and we are on our way to the Promised Land rejoicing!

And we come to Sinai, and… what is Moses asking?  During the time of the giving of the law at Sinai God tells Moses we are now to bring Him an offering—gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen, rams skins dyes red… oil, spices, onyx stones….  What’s this all about?  We are on our way to our Canaan inheritance, but what does this great God who has delivered us have in mind?

And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25.8).

Do we see open mouths and wonder on the faces of those around us?  I am sure this would have been a real jaw dropper back then.  These people had a long history with God.  He was the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.  But now what’s this?  He wants to dwell in their very midst?  This is something utterly unheard of.  Never before had this great God of their fathers mentioned anything like this.

But this, He says, is why He brought them out of Egypt.

And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them; I am the LORD their God (Ex. 29.46).

What a wonder.  Here they are, the Red Sea behind them, hearts full of expectation about the promised inheritance before them.  And how wonderful to think that the God of their fathers who just made for Himself an everlasting Name by bringing them out of Egypt would bring them into the promised inheritance.  What more could they ask?

But this was not enough for God.  He wanted to dwell in their midst on the way there.  He wanted a Sanctuary—a Holy Place—so that He the Holy God could dwell in their midst.

Fellow Christian, let us lay this to heart.  The great God who accomplished for us so great a salvation in Calvary’s cross is not content to just save us so we can live out our lives and then go happily to Heaven.

He wants to dwell in our midst on the way there.

So I can’t help asking one more question, and I wish more were asking it.  Oh, how thankful we are for the salvation we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.  But…  is God getting the desire of His heart among the saved these days?  Is God finding His Sanctuary, His Dwelling Place in our churches?  Is God actually home?

Two Shadows

It’s happened again.  And like so many others I am hurting badly over the latest school massacre in the United States—this time little children, some of them in kindergarten.  My heart bleeds for the parents of these little ones.  They have just gone through the end of their world.

Now we are being treated to the inevitable media feeding frenzy over it all… again.  They are covering every conceivable angle… again.  They are bringing in the expert panels to analyze what happened… again.  They are bringing in the grief counsellors to treat people for post traumatic distress… again.  They are “searching for answers”… again.  Not that they search very far—by this they mean trying to find out the killer’s motive.

The thing is, the experts set forth their analyses, the grief-stricken get counselled, the answers get searched out… and then for the most part it’s business as usual… till it happens again.

It seems it is a very difficult thing to awaken a society to the consciousness that Something is missing… and that God never intended this life we live to be lived without Him being the centre of all.

Our presumption that we can in fact do this—leave Him out—is the recipe for evil.  People are prepared to live with that, of course, as long as evil doesn’t get too evil.  As long as they feel they can keep evil in their own control, they even enjoy it.  The problem is that evil is not content to stay in the harness.  In due time evil is unleashed…. as we see happening more and more these days.  Sooner or later man will have to acknowledge that he doesn’t have the answers anymore—that evil is out of control.

In fact I believe we are now entering what the Bible calls “the Evil Day.”

It’s very frightening, but fellow Christian, this is our cue.  This is where you and I come in.  We are called to the warfare of the Evil Day.  We are called to put on the whole armour of God that we may be able “to stand in the Evil Day, and having done all (accomplished all) to stand.”  In other words, when this Day is over, the victory over evil that our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary is going to be made manifest worldwide.  Evil will have been vanquished on the field of battle, never to be found in heaven or earth again.

And so in the midst of great anguish we have great hope.  Men’s hearts are failing them for fear as one thing after another comes upon them.  But Christian, this fearful company does not include you and me.  We are putting on our armour, and we know the outcome of the battle.

We know that when the harvest of evil is ripe… what does a ripe field mean to the Man with the sickle?

When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever (Ps. 92.7).

He’s going to cut it down, beloved.  So we take heart in the midst of destruction.  When Death is casting a long shadow (as it is these days), what can this mean but that Death’s day is about done?

We take courage in knowing this.  God is going to deal with it all.  But even now we get out from under that shadow!  We need not live under that shadow!  There is another Shadow we can abide under.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91.1).

Let us not be foolish, beloved, carrying on as we always have and suddenly finding our world has caved in around us.  Let us earnestly be seeking this Shadow, this Secret Place.  It’s not a run-away-and-hide-from-it-all kind of place.  It’s a Place right there on the field of battle, a place in the midst of trouble where we can be a help to those in trouble, a light in the darkness.  Evil is all about us.  The snare of the fowler is right before us.  There is terror by night, and the arrow of evil by day.  Pestilence walks in the darkness, destruction wastes at noonday.  Thousands around us are falling.  But it cannot come nigh us.  We are safe from it all in the secret place of His Presence—under the Shadow of the Almighty.

Just flowery words, Psalm 91, this beautiful psalm?  Please don’t be so foolish.  They are filled with promise.  Give yourself to them, as I give myself to them.  They’re the words of God that cannot be broken, and they work effectually in those who believe (1 Thes. 2.13).

We must walk, all of us, through the vale of tears, the valley of the shadow of death.  But as sheep of a very Great Shepherd, we need fear no evil in this valley.  And why not?  Because “Thou art with me.”

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou art with me!  There is Another Shadow, beloved, under which we can walk through this terrible valley.  We need to find it and abide under it.

…Lord Jesus, Thou that dwellest in the heavens, we lift up our eyes to Thee, and we lift up our hearts with our hands, and the hearts of those who saw their flock of little ones torn by the ravening wolf yesterday.  How long, Lord Jesus, how long?  Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  We have entered a day, Lord Jesus, when more and more people will be praying your prayer not ritually, but from the heart:  “Deliver us from evil!  Oh God, please deliver us from evil!”  And we believe You will answer, Lord, in this Day.  And believing, we put on our armour.  We will be numbered among those fighting on Your side in the Evil Day, knowing that when it is all over we shall be the ones standing victors on the field, and thus bringing in another Day… a Day in which the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the cow and the bear shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw with the ox… and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  Amen.

Christ’s Inheritance

In all we have been saying about the Christian’s inheritance we have been looking at things from the point of view of our own advantage.  But there is another point of view—a higher one, I would say.

God, too, has an inheritance.

For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance (Dt. 32.9).

This is why God lifted up Israel “on eagle’s wings,” and brought them unto Himself—not only to give them the inheritance He promised Abraham, but that they themselves might become His own inheritance as well, His own inheritance among all the peoples of the earth.  For all the earth was His, He told them, but they were to be a special people among all peoples (Ex. 19.4-6).  His desire was to live and walk and dwell among them.  He wanted to come in and settle down in their midst.  Among them He would be able to, as it were, put His feet up, and say, “At last, I’m home.”  In them He could have total liberty to just be Himself.  In them He would have things His way.

Now, this was not to be something exclusive of other peoples; Israel was to be “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.”  God always had in mind to increase this inheritance to include all peoples.  And so even under the Law provision was made for “the stranger” to become part of Israel.

But ultimately God’s longing for an inheritance that included all peoples is fulfilled in His invitation to Christ:

Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession (Ps. 2.8).

Christ did ask, and “for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross.”  It was the joy and hope of being given a people who would become His own inheritance.  A sister in the Lord mentioned this to me a while ago, adding how humbled she felt that Christ would die on the cross to purchase with His precious blood lost sinners like her to become His own inheritance.  It is humbling.  What value did He see in us?  But, looking through the eyes of love He saw a people in whom, as a result of the Cross, He would be able to put His feet up and say, “At last, I’m home.”

And so there is an intertwining of these two aspects of the inheritance.  Our inheritance.  God’s inheritance.  What a beautiful and mutually satisfying relationship we are called to.  The Lord is our inheritance, and we are His inheritance.  He is our dwelling place, and we are His dwelling place.  “Abide in Me,” He urges, “and I in you.”  To the one who hears Him knocking, He says, “I will come in and sup with him… and he with Me.”

Is that not a wonder?  To think that God is hungry for something that only you and I can satisfy?  We know readily enough that God has much to satisfy us with, and we go to Him continually holding out our empty plate.  But what about God’s empty plate?  What about that empty feeling He has?  “What can I give God?” you ask.  “How can I feed God?”  With fellowship.  He delights in fellowship with us as much as we delight in fellowship with Him.  He is very willing to share what’s “on our plate.”  Really, Lord?  Do you know what’s on my plate?  Yes, He does.  And He is willing to share it with me.  For He is meek and lowly of heart.  And He invites us to share what’s on His.

It was He who sought out Adam and Eve in the Garden.  He called out, “Adam, where are you?”  What was He looking for?  Friendship.  Fellowship.  And though that fellowship was broken, He never gave up on it.  He restored it in His Son, that in Him He could find fellowship with man again…

…And in Him we could find fellowship with God again.

“For the LORD taketh pleasure in His people,” David said (Ps. 149.3).  How can this be? David tells us.  “He will beautify the meek with salvation.”

Let us believe the love He has for us, beloved.  He will not rest till He has fully possessed His inheritance, till He has made that which He purchased on Calvary fully His own… so that in us He lives, in us He talks, in us He walks, in us He looks upon those around Him, in us He  stretches forth His hand to heal.

The Christian’s Inheritance (Part Four)

In the last three blog entries we’ve been talking of the inheritance of the Christian. We mentioned that this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament by Israel coming into Canaan the promised land. We pointed out that theirs was a temporal and earthly inheritance; the Christian’s is eternal in the heavenlies, the realm of the Spirit.

There’s another way our inheritance is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. God told the tribe of Levi—the priestly tribe—that they were to have no inheritance with their brethren when they came into the land of Canaan. Rather, “I am their inheritance,” God said.

At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before Him to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name, unto this day.
Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him (Dt. 10.9).

You mean, when the children of Israel began enjoying their beautiful acreages in the land of Canaan there was nothing reserved for the tribe of Levi? All they got was… God?

What a letdown, eh? All they got was… God? All they got was the priesthood, the anointing?

…He that hath an ear let him hear.

There came a time when God uprooted Israel from their heritage because of their disobedience. He sent Nebuchadnezzar his servant to destroy the beloved city and temple they boasted in, and evict them from His land, and take them captive to Babylon. Jeremiah the prophet was heartbroken, and overcome with anguish. He was so bitter he felt he was drunk with bitterness.

He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.
He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.
And Thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
And I said, my strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall… (Lam. 3.15-19).

Suddenly it seems that Jeremiah, the tears streaming down his cheeks… he remembers something. He is a priest of the tribe of Levi (Jer. 1.1).

And he says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope… The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him” (Lam. 3.21,24).

All was gone! The heritage of Israel had been obliterated, utterly desolated! Yet in the midst of it all Jeremiah discovers hope, because God is His portion, His inheritance, His lot. He has fellowship with God in the midst of the desolation, weeping together with Him… and rejoicing in hope with Him as well. He knows God’s compassion will not fail, that His mercies are new every morning; out of the desolation a new day will dawn, and out of the ashes God will bring forth something even greater than what was lost. So Jeremiah wipes away his tears; he will wait in patience for the faithful God to reveal His great salvation.

The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

David, too, while not of the priestly tribe… light dawned on him as well one day, and he saw that the portion God had given the priestly tribe of Levi was prophetic of His desire for all of His saints. For He would have them all to be a kingdom of priests. I think it likely that David wrote this psalm in the days when he was, as he said, being “driven out from the inheritance of the Lord” (see 1 Sam. 26.19). And so David said:

The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage (Ps. 16.5,6).

This is very beautiful. If not for this we might feel envious of our Christian brothers and sisters who seem to have a better inheritance than we do. We look over the fence and envy their lot.  They have it so good.  They are free of afflictions and troubles. It seems God has blessed them with things He has not blessed us with; they have happy circumstances, fulfilling relationships, while we ourselves are going through such hard things.

It’s a formula for bitterness isn’t it.

…Not when the Lord draws nigh, and reveals that He Himself is our portion, our inheritance, our lot. Now we are able to say—and mean what we say—“the lines (the boundary lines) are fallen unto me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.” Why so? Because in the midst of our suffering and pain we are beginning to see that… God Himself is our inheritance.

Pleasant—it means pleasing, delightful. We have a goodly heritage right there in the midst of unhappy and hard things. What heritage? God Himself. His Presence. His peace. His love. His joy… Himself. The hidden beauties of His own heart and character, the greater things He gives us in the very things life seems to deny us, things that perhaps we would never have known were even there if we could have chosen to live our lives happily ever after with all that we wished for. But no man or devil or circumstance of life can separate us from the inheritance of God.   It is a wondrous, wondrous secret—that the cross we must carry, the way of the cross which seems such loss to us, and which seems to lead in the wrong direction, actually leads to Life.

“Thou wilt shew me the Path of Life,” David concludes his psalm. “In thy Presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This is where the lines were drawn for David the outcast who had nowhere to lay his head, and he knew that it was because a loving God had drawn those lines to include this territory for him.

“Thou maintainest my lot,” David said.

…Lord, we ask that you maintain our lot too, the heritage that is You yourself. Some things are so beautiful and so high that we worry we might miss out on them. Not if it is You looking after this on our behalf, Lord. So we lean on You to do this; look after this for us, dear Lord, maintain it, protect it, keep it for us, tend it with care; uphold our lot, Lord, that we might continue to enjoy the riches and beauty of this pleasing and goodly heritage—You yourself—regardless of our earthly circumstances. Amen.

The Christian’s Inheritance (Part Three)

We mentioned last time “the Holy Spirit of promise” which is the earnest of our inheritance.  We are in Ephesians now.  And there is so much here that we will just have to break midstream into Paul’s thought.  He says that in Christ:

…we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will;
That we should be to the praise of His glory who first hoped in Christ;
In whom ye also, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also after that ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance unto the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1.13,14).

(Let’s bookmark for the moment that twice-repeated phrase “to the praise of His glory.” We’ll come back to it.)

The Holy Spirit, then, “that Holy Spirit of promise,” is given us as the earnest of our inheritance—the pledge, the seal, the guarantee, that assures redemption of the purchased possession.  Paul has already told us back in verse 7 that in Christ we have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”  But forgiveness of sins, wonderful as it is, is only the negative side of our redemption.  Now Paul shows us the positive side– the giving of the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest, the pledge, of an inheritance fully purchased… but not yet fully in our possession.  Yes, it is ours—the earnest of the Holy Spirit guarantees it, guarantees that in due time the holders of the pledge will be able to redeem in full the purchased possession.  In fact the Greek for earnest is arrabon, which can also mean engagement ring.  The Holy Spirit is, then, our engagement ring—the pledge of a coming marriage.  The bride-to-be rejoices in the ring, and holds out her hand to show it off.  But no bride or groom would be content to settle for the engagement ring alone.  It’s the bridegroom himself she has in mind, total union with the bridegroom—and so does he.  We too must not put the pledge for the whole.  By the engagement ring of the Holy Spirit we are sealed unto the marriage—total union with Christ our bridegroom in the day when all that He has—and is—becomes ours.  Let this be our consuming desire, as it is His.

Meanwhile the Holy Spirit is the earnest, the seal, the pledge, “unto the redemption of the purchased possession.”  Let us keep our seal inviolate till the wedding day.  “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4.30).  Israel in the wilderness came to the place where, in spite of all that God had done to fit them for their inheritance, they “vexed His Holy Spirit,” they “grieved Him in the wilderness” (Isa. 63.10, Heb. 3.17).  We can’t go in, they said.  “We are not able…” (Num. 13.31).

We are able, said Caleb.  “Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13.30).

We too are able!  Delivered from sin and death, and being given the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are meet, we are sufficient, are competent, are well able, to partake of our portion of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Which is?  God Himself.  “God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”  If we are children of God, we are His heirs, Paul says, “heirs of God…”  All that He has is ours—all that He is.  What can this mean?  It is so high and so vast a thought as to be largely incomprehensible to us.  It means, I believe, that we are to come to know God—the depths of God.  “For the Spirit searcheth all things, the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2.10).  It humbles us and fills us with awe when the implications of this passage dawn on us.  This is something the angels don’t have—the Spirit of God in such a way as to enable us to search out the depths of God… because we share His very nature.  For, as Paul explains, it’s only the spirit of a person that knows all about that person.  Even so, it’s only the Spirit of God that knows all about God (1 Cor. 2.11).  Paul’s point is that– wonder of wonders– we have received His Spirit (vs. 12).  We are born of God, share His nature.  We are His children, and so His heirs.  The Holy Spirit is our guide, then, leading us to search out and explore and make real in our experience… the very depths of God.  We are to come to know Him—and this in such a way as only those who are partakers of His nature can come to know Him. It is a wondrous hope, and the very thing that the New Covenant promises.  “They shall all know Me from the least of them to the greatest.”

But know Him to what degree?  Paul goes on, “…Heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”  We are to know God the Father just as the Son of God knew Him when He walked here on earth.  We are joint-heirs with Christ; all that is His is ours.

The Christian’s inheritance, then, with Christ Himself, is the heart and mind of God, the mountains of His righteousness, the vastness of His love.  We are to know Him with the kind of knowledge that makes us like Him.  We are to be like Him in this world (1 Jn. 4.17).  This is the end of all the teaching, the talking, the preaching, the praying—all that now makes up Christianity. Sons in God’s image. Partakers of the divine nature, which angels are not heirs of.  Only fallen men now made meet are heirs, men once held in the bondage of darkness but now made fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in a realm of pure Light… unto which no sinful man can approach.  Only these are the heirs of God.  Sons, daughters, who think like He thinks, who feel as He feels, who walk as He walks, who talk as He talks, and act as He acts.

…I pray for an awakening of the saints of God.  Oh that we might see that with our Passover experience and our Pentecost experience we are but in our beginnings.  Yes, God has delivered us from the authority of darkness.  That was what the Passover accomplished.  What about the rest of the sentence?  He has “translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”  He has “made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”  Translated?  The word simply means, transferred. This is what God accomplished in Christ on our behalf.  We need not spend years in a wilderness, like Israel of old in their disobedience.  God’s intent at Sinai was to equip his people to immediately enter into their inheritance. “Let us go up at once and possess it,” said Caleb. “We are well able.”  We too are able.  This is God’s intent in the pouring out of His Spirit at Pentecost.  Strengthened with all might by His Spirit in the inner man we are well able to begin immediately to apprehend our inheritance.

I pray for an awakening.  It ought to provoke us that we Christians are so short of what is our own.  Why are we content with so little?  We should be jealous for what is our own.  We spend our days wandering in a wilderness, like Israel of old.  Yes, God looks after us in the wilderness, as He did them.  But oh how straitened they were in that wilderness… as are we.  This is what accounts for the condition of the church these days—the Christians, the saints of God.  We mourn sore like doves over the condition of things—the problems, the carnality.  There is scarcely a Christian who doesn’t have problems of some kind.  Quite simply, we have not yet apprehended the awesome inheritance Christ purchased for us at Calvary, and our present condition reflects it.  Instead of total conquest over God’s enemies and casting them out of the heavenly heritage which is our own, our enemies spoil for themselves.  They are able to do that from their heavenly vantage point—that belongs to you and me.  We must take our inheritance!  Really, it’s a matter of life and death—and as the Day draws nigh it’s going to become more so—that those in the world around us be able to find a Christian who is walking in his or her inheritance and knows their God, and has authority in heavenly places.  It’s far from a selfish thing that we enter into and take our inheritance.

Let us press on, then, and press in.  We are thankful that Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us; we rejoice in our Pentecost.  But like Israel of old, at this stage we are yet in our beginnings.  These are but to make us meet for our inheritance.  The Passover has dealt with the past; the earnest of the Spirit is just that—the earnest, the pledge, the deposit that guarantees us the fullness of the purchased possession “to the praise of His glory.”

Let us note this last phrase well, which we bookmarked earlier.  It is only as we come into our inheritance and abide there that we become those in whom the Lord is glorified.  Only then does the glory of the Lord shine forth from our lives for all the world to see.

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