Category Archives: Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God and the principles which we are to seek and live by.

Disciples Of The Lily

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: and He opened His mouth, and taught them…

These words in the Gospel according to Matthew introduce us to what has been called the Sermon on the Mount. It’s clear that the multitudes as well as the disciples had followed Jesus up the mountain, for we read at the end of the sermon that “the multitudes were astonished at His teaching” (Mt. 7:28). But it was primarily to His disciples that Jesus was speaking. The word disciple means, simply, learner. He was the Teacher, the Rabbi, they the learners.

What is it that He was teaching them? What were they to learn? The answer to that question is to be found in asking the better question, “Who is it that they were to learn?”

For, when He opened His mouth and taught them, it was Himself that He was revealing to them—Himself—the Life of the ages. John the beloved was there at that time, and no doubt it was this scene on the mount, among many others, that he had in mind when many years later he wrote of the Word of life that they had heard and seen and looked upon and their hands had handled, the Life eternal that had been with the Father, and was manifested to them. One cannot help seeing Him seated there on that beautiful day with His disciples around Him sitting or reclining in the grass, the flowers of the field blooming round about them, the birds of the air flying above.

It was the One now seated before them who had created it all, object lessons of Himself, and, perhaps with a motion of His arm He draws their attention upward, then downward.

Behold the fowls of the air… Consider the lilies of the field…

The context of these words is about two kinds of slavery—the slavery of Mammon and the slavery of God. Mammon originally meant “that in which one puts his trust, his confidence” and came eventually to mean (is it any wonder in this materialistic world?) “money, possessions, material prosperity.”

Jesus is teaching His disciples the Life that is not slavery to Mammon, is not anxious nor burdened with its own security, but rather trusts in the faithfulness of a heavenly Father to provide all that is necessary, both earthly and spiritual, while being bondslaves to Him. It seems an incongruous thought—slavery to God? But that is the word Jesus uses. “Ye cannot serve-as-bondslaves God and Mammon.”

And so He tells them, “Therefore…” What a precious place to find that word. Let us heed it. “Therefore, be not anxious for your life…” That’s what being a bondslave of the living God is like. It is the Life that is free from care, unburdened with the cares of this life.

Therefore, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air…

What about the fowls of the air? This. They are not sowing and reaping and gathering into barns, intent upon making sure they have in hand what tomorrow will need. What then? What resource do they have? “Your heavenly Father feedeth them.”

Remember that old poem?

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I would really like to know
Why those anxious human beings
rush around and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me.”

It’s meant, of course, to remind us that we do have. And note that Jesus has said, “Your heavenly Father feedeth them.” Not their heavenly Father. The robin and the sparrow cannot call Him Father. The disciples of Jesus can. And will not this Father who feeds the fowls of the air feed His own children, and care for all their needs, whether earthly or spiritual? It is thus that they grow, not by “taking thought,” not by anxious care; they cannot by anxious care add so much as one cubit to their stature.

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow…

This is where Jesus calls His disciples to become disciples of the lilies of the field. The word consider comes from the same Greek root that the word disciple comes from. Consider also has the prefix kata, which is an intensifier, which is why Young’s Literal Translation has, “Consider well.” Thayer says it means “to learn thoroughly, to examine carefully, to consider well.”

Kata also has the idea down in it. This is likely why Halton’s Expanded Translation has:

Humble yourself, get right down on your elbows in the grass, and become a disciple of the lowly lilies of the field: recline at their feet, and learn from them, learn well from them, the secret of spiritual growth, the secret of the life that toils not, nor spins, yet because of that wondrous law of life within, they grow with a beauty that by comparison, Solomon in all His glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Now Jesus’ next word. “Wherefore…” Let us heed this one too:

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Much more? Wondrous words we are invited to trust, to believe. The lily in all its glory is clothed with a beautiful array that it does not spin for itself, does not toil to produce. It is God who so clothes it, putting within it a law of life that brings into being that beautiful raiment as the lily simply obeys that law of life. This is how it grows—simply by letting that law of life have its way, and trusting in its Creator to provide the needed sunlight, and water, and nutrients from the soil. Thus the lowly lily brings forth and displays an inimitable beauty that glorifies God, who created it for this very purpose—to glorify Him.

Shall He not much more clothe us, to the praise of His glory?

Help us, Jesus, help us to be no longer of little faith, but to fully believe you, and follow through on your counsel, and become disciples of the lily.

Heed The Harbinger

No, I am not referring to the popular book of our day, but to a man who in his own day was not very popular at all.  This blog entry is an excerpt from a writing by Edward Burrough, one of the early Quakers.  Actually they called themselves simply Friends; it was in scorn that their adversaries called them Quakers, for they saw them frequently trembling, and ridiculed them for it.

You and I know why they were trembling… or ought to know… by first-hand experience.

I came across this writing in Foundation Papers, a newsletter I get in the mail from contemporary Quakers who are seeking to return to the foundation the first Quakers established back in the 17th century.  That move of the Spirit of God shook the world, and as you read this excerpt you will see why.  You will see glimpses of a very powerful Gospel that in its going forth exposed how far the churches of that day, bound as they were in formalism and the traditions of men, had strayed from the original Gospel of Christ and the apostles.

Our old friend George Warnock used to say that the early Quakers were a harbinger of what is coming.  Harbinger?  Something that shows what is coming.

With this in mind, then—with what is coming in mind—there is only one thing we can and must do, and if we are wise we are doing this with the whole heart.  We are heeding the same proclamation that John the Baptist and Jesus Christ and the early apostles sounded, and which those early Quakers also sounded.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Edward Burrough was just 18 when he was caught into the powerful current of the Spirit that was moving through England at the time.  In 1658 when he was 24 he wrote this piece.  And just four years later he died in prison where, along with many other Quakers, he had been cast because of the living Testimony that dwelt in him.

Here is Edward Burrough’s Epistle to the Reader.  I have put in italics the portion that I found so moving.

The Epistle To The Reader
By Edward Burrough
London the 9. Mo. 1658

It is now about seven years since the Lord raised us up in the north of England, and opened our mouths in this his Spirit; and what we were before in our religion, profession, and practices is well known to that part of the country; that generally we were men of the strictest sect, and of the greatest zeal in the performance of outward righteousness, and went through and tried all sorts of teachers, and run from mountain to mountain, and from man to man, and from one form to another, as do many to this very day, who yet remain ungathered to the Lord. And such we were, (to say no more of us,) that sought the Lord, and desired the knowledge of his ways more than anything beside, and for one I may speak, who, from a child, even a few years old, set my face to seek and find the Saviour, and, more than life and treasure or any mortal crown, sought with all my heart the one thing that is needful, to wit, the knowledge of God.

And after our long seeking the Lord appeared to us, and revealed his glory in us, and gave us of his Spirit from heaven, and poured it upon us, and gave us of his wisdom to guide us, whereby we saw all the world, and the true state of things, and the true condition of the church in her present estate. First the Lord brought us by his power and wisdom, and the word by which all things were made, to know and understand, and see perfectly, that God had given to us, every one of us in particular, a light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences; which light, Christ his son, the Saviour of the world, had lighted every man withal; which light in us we found sufficient to reprove us, and convince [that is, convict] us of every evil deed, word, and thought, and by it, in us, we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to him, from what is of the devil, and what was contrary to God in motion, word, and works….

…And also as our minds became turned, and our hearts inclined to the light which shined in every one of us, the perfect estate of the church we came to know; her estate before the apostles’ days, and in the apostles’ days, and since the days of the apostles.

And her present estate we found to be as a woman who had once been clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, who brought forth him that was to rule the nations; but she was fled into the wilderness, and there sitting desolate, in her place that was prepared of God for such a season, in the very end of which season, when the time of her sojourning was towards a full end, then were we brought forth….

….And we found this light to be a sufficient teacher, to lead us to Christ, from whence this light came, and thereby it gave us to receive Christ, and to witness him to dwell in us; and through it the new covenant we came to enter into, to be made heirs of life and salvation.

And in all things we found the light which we were enlightened withal, (which is Christ,) to be alone and only sufficient to bring to life and eternal salvation; and that all who did own the light in them which Christ hath enlightened every man withal, they needed no man to teach them, but the Lord was their teacher, by his light in their own consciences, and they received the holy anointing.

And so we ceased from the teachings of all men, and their words, and their worships, and their temples, and all their baptisms and churches; and we ceased from our own words, and professions, and practices in religion, in times before zealously performed by us, through diverse forms, and we became fools for Christ’s sake, that we might become truly wise. And by this light of Christ in us were we led out of all false ways, and false preachings, and from false ministers, and we met together often, and waited upon the Lord in pure silence from our own words, and all men’s words, and hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and felt his word in our hearts, to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God; and we obeyed the light of Christ in us, and followed the motions of the Lord’s pure Spirit, and took up the cross to all earthly glories, crowns, and ways: and denied ourselves, our relations, and all that stood in the way betwixt us and the Lord; and we chose to suffer with and for the name of Christ, rather than enjoy all the pleasures upon earth, or all our former zealous professions and practices in religion without the power and Spirit of God, which the world yet lives in. And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being staid in the light of Christ within us, from all thoughts, fleshly motions, and desires, in our diligent waiting and fear of his name, and hearkening to his word, we received often the pouring down of the Spirit upon us, and the gift of God’s holy eternal Spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as his Spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters. And to us hereby were the deep things of God revealed, and things unutterable were known and made manifest; and the glory of the Father was revealed, and then began we to sing praises to the Lord God Almighty, and to the Lamb forever, who had redeemed us to God, and brought us out of the captivity and bondage of the world, and put an end to sin and death; and all this was by and through, and in the light of Christ within us. And much more might be declared hereof, that which could not be believed if it were spoken, of the several and particular operations and manifestations of the everlasting Spirit that was given us, and revealed in us.

But this is the sum: life and immortality were brought to light, power from on high and wisdom were made manifest, and the day everlasting appeared unto us, and the joyful sun of righteousness did arise and shine forth unto us and in us; and the holy anointing, the everlasting Comforter, we received; and the babe of glory was born, and the heir of the promise brought forth to reign over the earth, and over hell and death, whereby we entered into everlasting union, and fellowship, and covenant with the Lord God, whose mercies are sure and infinite, and his promise never fails. We were raised from death to life, and changed from Satan’s power to God, and gathered from all the dumb shepherds, and off all the barren mountains, into the fold of eternal peace and rest, and mighty and wonderful things hath the Lord wrought for us, and by us, by his own outstretched arm.

And thus we became followers of the Lamb whithersoever he goes; and he hath called us to make war in righteousness for his name’s sake against hell and death, and all the powers of darkness, and against the beast and false prophet, which have deceived the nations. And we are of the royal seed elect, chosen and faithful, and we war in truth and just judgment; not with weapons that are carnal, but by the sword that goes out of his mouth, which shall slay the wicked, and cut them to pieces. And after this manner was our birth or bringing forth, and thus hath the Lord chosen us and made us an army dreadful and terrible, before whom the wicked do fear and tremble; and our standard is truth, justice, righteousness, and equity; and all that come unto us, must cleave thereunto, and fight under that banner without fear, and without doubting, and they shall never be ashamed nor put to flight, neither shall they ever be conquered by hell or death, or by the powers of darkness; but the Lord shall be their armour, weapon, and defence for evermore. And they that follow the Lamb shall overcome, and get the victory over the beast, and over the dragon, and over the gates of hell; for the Lord is with us, and who shall be able to make us afraid?

That’s the end of the excerpt.  After I read it I just… it made me tremble, and it’s sackcloth and ashes for me till in our own generation we come to the reality of this Gospel—a Gospel not in word, but in power, a Gospel by which life and immortality are not just words on the pages of my Bible; life and immortality are brought to light and shine forth in power and total victory over Hell and death and all the powers of darkness… and our whole world quakes as a result of it.  Too far out?  But the harbinger has already arrived… some 350 years ago!

Those wishing to read the Edward Burrough’s full epistle may find it at:  Beware of other things on this site: there are many writings there which show how painfully far many modern-day Quakers have strayed from the truth by following what they called the light in their hearts, all the while utterly losing sight of the True Light Himself.

Edward Burrough’s epistle is also available at:  There is also a short biography of him on this site.

Behold A Throne

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The Bible record shows us that the apostles and prophets of old went through some very hard things.  Apostasy, persecution, affliction…

But there was something that held them, that kept them, through it all.  In the midst of it all they saw an eternal Throne.

Isaiah saw a vision of this throne in the year that king Uzziah died.  Uzziah was one of the longest reigning kings, and though he had made mistakes, was greatly loved because of the peace and security the people enjoyed under his shadow.  His reign was a time of great prosperity.  Suddenly this great and benevolent king died.  I’m sure many hearts were anxious.  Would the peace and prosperity die with him?

But what does Isaiah the prophet see?

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple (Isa. 6:1).

Perhaps it is here that Isaiah was first introduced to a throne, and a king and a kingdom, that would never pass away.  For a little later we find him prophesying:

Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth and forever (Isa. 9:7).

Jeremiah saw this same throne a century and a half later when the people of God were about to be deported to Babylon for their idolatry.

But the LORD is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting king… (Jer. 10:10).

This, I am sure, is what kept Jeremiah when Nebuchadnezzar deposed their king and carried the people captive to Babylon.  He knew there was an eternal throne with an everlasting king sitting upon it.

Ezekiel the priest was among those captives.  In Babylon by the river Chebar he saw this same throne.  He saw in vision the cherubim bearing a throne, “and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a Man above upon it” (Ezek. 1:26).

And so even in their captivity there is still One upon the throne.  And He assures Ezekiel that His purposes have not come to an end.  Greater things are ahead.

The apostle John saw this throne.  He had just been exiled to the barren isle of Patmos off the coast of present-day Turkey.  John was there because his testimony had been galling to the authorities of the day.  At the same time, many of the churches in which he has ministered were in a state of complacency; others had been overcome with false teaching.  His whole life’s work, it seems, had been largely in vain.  What a recipe for discouragement.

But John sees a vision while on Patmos.  It centres around a throne, and One who sits upon it.

And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and [one] sat on the throne (Rev. 4:2).

We too must behold this throne.  In fact John calls his vision a prophecy.  It was prophetic of our day.  We too are living in a time of great apostasy, of spiritual famine and drought.  It has become very difficult for the sincere of heart to endure.  Many have fallen away.  But God has provision for those who love him to endure.  We must with the eye of the Spirit behold a Throne.

The apostle Paul saw this throne.  In a letter to his “son in the faith” Timothy we discover that Satan and evil men had already done serious damage to the work of the Spirit that Paul has given his life to.   He warns of those who have “turned aside unto vain jangling” (1 Tim. 1:6), and that “in the latter time some shall depart from the faith” (1 Tim: 4:1).  And so he urges Timothy to stand guard over the doctrine being taught in the church he is involved with (1 Tim. 1:3).  He urges him to “war a good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18), and to “keep that which is committed to thy trust” (1 Tim. 6:20).

And how can you do this, son Timothy?  There is one thing filling Paul’s mind in what he is saying to Timothy.  We find it at the beginning of his letter, and at the end.

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honour and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:17).

…Which in His times He shall shew, who is the blessed and only potentate (the only power), the King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting.  Amen (1 Tim. 6:15,16).

In other words, yes, there will come a time when this Throne and the One upon it will be openly manifested.  But even now, though He may be invisible at this time, those with the eye of the Spirit can behold His throne and live under His rule.  And no other.

The Pathway Of The Wind

Solomon said, “As thou knowest not the pathway of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all” (Eccles. 11.5).

It has taken me several years to understand this verse, which it seems Jesus had in mind in a reply to a certain Pharisee, Nicodemus by name, who had come to Him by night to acknowledge what his colleagues refused to acknowledge.

Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him (Jn. 3.2).

I believe that in these words of Nicodemus we are touching more of a plea than a statement.  I believe they are the words of a man who wanted God, but in spite of all his credentials and the religious things he was involved in, felt painfully distanced from Him.  Jesus knew his heart, and this is the response He gave him.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Well, yes, Nicodemus was painfully aware there was something he wasn’t seeing.  But now this on top of it all?  How could a man be born again when he was old?  Could he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.   That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Just quickly, notice the use of thee and ye here.  “Marvel not that I said unto thee (singular), ye (plural) must be born again.  You must all be born again, Jesus was saying.  Even though this one individual He was speaking to was a learned Pharisee and a teacher of Israel, he was no different from all men born of Adam’s race.  Just like everyone else, he needed to be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God.

And then Jesus continues—and I wonder if I don’t see Him and Nicodemus somewhere out on a rooftop in the cool of the evening, and they can hear the wind blowing in the trees nearby—and I think also that we hear the echo of Solomon’s words in what He says:

The wind bloweth where it listeth (desireth), and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Remember that in both Hebrew and Greek the word for wind and spirit is the same word.  Solomon the wise man said it wasn’t possible to know the pathway of the wind, or how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child.  But a wiser than Solomon was now saying to Nicodemus that there is in fact one way to come to know the pathway the Wind walks on.  That is to become like this child in the womb, and be born of the Wind.

There is pathway, and a life, a realm, a wisdom, that cannot be known by the natural man.  But those born of the Spirit can indeed know and walk in this realm and this Pathway.

As thou knowest not the pathway of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

As I said, it has taken me several years to understand this verse.  It’s the part about the works of God that has evaded me.  But just like the pathway of the wind, and the mysterious inner workings of life in the womb, even so the realm of the works of God simply cannot be known by man.

Paul said the same thing:

But the natural man (the soulical man) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2.14).

It takes the new creation man, a spiritual man, to know these things, these things of God, and to walk in them.  These are the works that Paul says God has prepared beforehand for the new creation man to know, and walk in.

For by grace ye are saved through faith, and that (salvation) not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained (before prepared) that we should walk in them (Eph. 2.8-10).

Works—the Bible distinguishes between dead works, and good works.  These good works Paul speaks of are simply the things we are about in our daily lives, the things we do, the spontaneous outflow of our walk with God, our love relationship with God.  They are living works—the works of a new creation Man, works God has prepared beforehand for us that we should walk in them.  We are just walking in sync with God Himself as a great eternal purpose unfolds.  Our works are works of rest, you might say.

The thing is… the beautiful, the liberating, thing is… this new creation man is under no other obligation.  He or she need not get under any other yoke whether in thought or deed.

It’s Automatic

Last time we talked of Jesus urging His disciples, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”  It’s a warning.  We are to take heed to our hearing.  Whether or not the ground of our heart brings forth the fruit our Lord is looking for depends on the quality of our hearing.  Do we take his word seriously—that shallow soil or weed-infested ground can hinder the seed from bearing fruit?  If our hearing is good, we lay that to heart.  We cooperate with the Divine Farmer, seeking His help to make sure our hearts are good ground with deep, fertile soil where nothing is growing but the Good Seed He planted.  In this kind of ground the seed will surely bring forth… an hundredfold.

And, as we see in what Jesus says next, our work in done when we present to the Lord this kind of soil.  The rest is up to Him—and to the Law of life in the seed He plants.  After exhorting His disciples to make sure they are hearing what He is saying, Jesus continues with this:

So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
And should sleep, and rise night and day,
And the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear (Mk. 4.26-28).

The emphasis in the original is, “How, he knoweth not.”  There is a mysterious process of life at work in the seed—the same process we mentioned in an earlier blog.

As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all (Eccles. 11.5).

In the natural creation, it’s life that causes the child in the womb to grow.  It’s life that causes the seed to grow and bear fruit.  These are the inner workings of a law of life God set to work in nature when He created all things.

And God created all these things with this in mind:  their voice speaks to us of the wonder and beauty of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus in His parables drawn from nature is speaking of the Kingdom of God.  It is “the word of the Kingdom” that the sower sows, and, depending on the soil conditions, brings forth fruit.  And so, as we said, we have a part to play there.  He that hath an ear, let him hear.  We can seek to be good deep soil, and keep out the weeds.

But once the conditions are right, our job is done.  It’s no use the farmer standing anxiously over the ground as if so doing could help the seed along.  “The earth bringeth forth fruit of herself.”

This word in the Greek is automate (pronounced automatay).  Sound familiar?  I’m not much of a Greek scholar, but even I could tell what that word likely meant.  Here’s what a real Greek scholar (Kenneth Wuest) has to say about it.

The words of herself are the translation of automate which is made up of autos (self) and memaa (to desire eagerly).  The word means in its totality, “self-moved, spontaneously, without external aid, and also beyond external control, with a way and a will, so to speak, of its own that must be respected and waited for.”  We get our English word automatic from this Greek word automate.  There is only one other example of its use in the New Testament, where the gate opens to Peter of its own accord (Acts 12.10).  The earth, therefore, brings forth fruit automatically.  The nature of the soil, the weather, and the cultivation of the plant, all enter in.  But the secret of the growth is in the seed itself.

This is very encouraging to us, isn’t it.  The farmer doesn’t stand anxiously over the seed he planted.  He isn’t wringing his hands as to what will happen next.  He doesn’t stay up all night worrying.  He just goes about his daily routine, sleeping, rising, sleeping, rising… and… what’s this?  The ground that received the seed is bringing forth now!  The seed has yielded to a law of life that meant it first had to die… and now it is growing, growing, growing… “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.”

So with the Kingdom of God that is growing in the earth right now, and in due time will be openly manifested.  There is a beautiful mystery at work that the hand of man has no part in—the mystery of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which is at work in those who believe.  We need to respect that working, and wait patiently for the results.  Something spontaneous–automatic– is happening while we wait, something that is working of its own accord as we rest in the Lord.  Having kept out the weeds, we only need to yield to the seed that has been sown, trusting the Law of the Spirit of life to bring forth the seed that was planted in abundant fruitfulness… to the praise and glory of God.

How’s Your Hearing?

Jesus has entered a boat and is speaking to the multitudes on the shore.  He speaks to them a parable about a sower who sows seed on various types of ground.  It’s all the same seed, nevertheless the ground it is sown in brings forth different results.

Some seed falls by the roadside where the ground is packed so hard it can’t even get in, and immediately the birds come and peck it all up.

Some seed falls on thin soil with rock underneath, and although it springs up quickly, when the sun gets hot it just as quickly dies because it isn’t deeply rooted.

Some falls on ground that looks good but is infested with the seeds of thorns, and when the thorns grow up, the plants growing from the good seed are choked out.

And some of the seed falls on fertile ground that yields fruit (I like that word yield here) “some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mk. 4.8).

At the end of the parable Jesus says to the multitude, “He that hath ears let him hear” (Mk. 4.9).

Luke has this more dramatically, telling us that Jesus cried out this warning.

And when he had said these things He cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8.8).

In other words, let no one underestimate the eternal importance of what He has been saying!

After speaking this and other parables to the multitude, Jesus goes aside with his disciples and explains the parable.  He didn’t do this with the great multitude, at this point already realizing that most of them weren’t all that interested in what He had to say; they followed Him just for the signs and wonders and miracles.  Others were openly against Him, and followed along looking only for an opportunity to find fault.  But now he explains the parable to the disciples.  He has been talking of hearing the word, likening the hearers of the word to various types of ground.  We won’t enlarge on this here except to say that God intends the seed of the word in our lives—the word of the Kingdom of God—to bear abundant fruit, and depending on the condition of our heart this may or may not happen.  Hardness of heart, persecution, the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches… all these and the lusts of other things can cause a crop failure.  But the good and honest heart that endures to the end will bring forth the fruit God is looking for.

What we want to emphasize here is that the Lord rephrases to the disciples His earlier exhortation to the multitude.  After He has explained the parable to His disciples He directs these words to them:

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear (Mk. 4.23).

This is phrased a little differently than the first exhortation, and the thought seems to be that Jesus recognizes that, unlike many of those who were stone deaf to what He had been saying, His disciples have ears to hear.  The more accurate translation of this second exhortation is, “Since a person has ears to be hearing, let him be hearing” (Wuest Expanded Translation).  You mean, Lord, your disciples actually have ears to hear, and you still admonish them?

It’s a profound warning for us, then.  It’s possible to have ears—even to think we are hearing—and yet not be hearing very well.

Christ continues by saying:

Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.
For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

Christian, let us guard against dullness of hearing.  Hearing… yet not really hearing.  Hearing… yet it doesn’t really register because we are going about our lives in this world, and, with all the things that cry for our attention, the ear that was once attentive is no longer hearing the way it used to.

Or, perhaps unknowingly we have become presumptuous, over-familiar with spiritual things.  It’s something that can creep in so easily on the heart.  We hear and presume these spiritual words to be ours because of some special group or move we have been involved in, or some great church we go to.

Or, apart from any group or church we are involved in, we have given the inherent pride of our own heart lots of water and sunshine, and we are now oblivious to our deep and continual need to walk in humility and “tremble at His word.”  And so now the seed of the word falls on our ear… and we heard it as usual, but actually nothing happened.  We have ears, but we are not really hearing.  We have lost what young Samuel had when he responded trembling, “Speak, Lord, for your servant heareth.”

In other words, the Lord had Samuel’s full attention.

The Lord Jesus Christ says that with what measure we give our ears to hear Him, in this measure what He is saying shall be measured out to us.  If we give our ears but a little, that’s what is given to us in return—little.  If our hearing is dull, we won’t get much.  If our ears are keen, are sensitive, we will hear more—in fact shall be given more than we anticipated.

…Unto you that hear shall more be given.

Is it possible then, that the Lord has spoken, and, although we heard the words, and got a little, there was more we could have heard?  Apparently.  The Lord says that it is to those who have ears and actually hear, that it shall be given.

For he that hath, to him shall be given.

And then the solemn final warning.

And he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

I don’t want to be in that category of the listener who the Lord says has ears but is actually going about his life not hearing what He is saying at all.  And suddenly I discover that what I thought I had… actually I did not have it, and it is taken from me completely now.

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.