Category Archives: The Church

The Oracle Of Judgment

As one of the oxen of God—a teacher of the word, I mean—it is my lot to tread out the grain. I go round and round the word-of-God threshing floor, round and round, patiently plodding along, treading out the grain—work that I find fitting to my nature and so even enjoy, though I’m guarded as to who I admit that to; some are pained at the very thought; they are relieved they are not harnessed to such menial work.

But it’s in me to do this, at the same time often feeling… Lord, is my labour in vain? It seems to fall, oh so short of the word of God that is needed in this desperate hour.

I was praying along this line a few days ago when I became aware of a gentle correction from my Lord—that the word of teaching is the portion He has given me as part of a greater work. The ox that treads out the corn isn’t seeing the finished product; that is yet to come. And will certainly come. The very reason for which the ox must do his part.

And so let me do that; let me do my teaching part, small though it be. Hopefully it will prepare the hearts of the saints for the greater word of God that I know is surely, most surely building pressure, and cannot help but soon burst forth.

Let me tell you, then, of an experience I had recently. I was happily treading out the grain. I was reading an old book a friend gave me called Word Meanings in the New Testament (Volume 3, Romans) by Ralph Earle. He made a comment regarding the word oracles in Romans 3:2, stating that this word in its plural form means “the words or utterances of God.” Earle enlarged on that, adding something about the word in its singular form:

Logion [the singular] literally means “a little word” or “a brief utterance.” By Greek writers it was used of divine oracles, since they were usually brief. In the Septuagint it was used for the breastplate of the high priest, which he must wear when seeking to find out God’s will. It is always related to the idea of God speaking.

Isn’t that fascinating?

Well… let me tread it out; hopefully then you’ll share my excitement.

We first read of the breastplate of the high priest back in Exodus Chapter 28, where it is called in most of our English translations “the breastplate of judgment.” The words come from two Hebrew words which transliterated into English are khoshen, breastplate. And mishpat, judgment.

Strong’s Concordance has this to say about khoshen.

From an unused root probably meaning to contain or sparkle; perhaps a pocket (as holding the Urim and Thummim), or rich (as containing gems), used only of the gorget of the high priest.

The word mishpat, means “right, decision of right,” according to Old Testament commentators Keil and Delitzsch. Or again from Strong’s:

Properly a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree… abstractly justice, including a particular right, or privilege…

It seems to me that the Septuagint translators (who translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek around 200 BC) ought to have translated the Hebrew words khoshen and mishpat with whatever the Greek is for “pocket of judgment” or “gems of judgment,” or something like that. Why then, did they choose λογειο͂ν τῶν κρίσεωον (logeiōn tōn kriseōon) that is, oracle of judgment? There is no semantic reason why they should have translated the Hebrew khoshen with the Greek logeiōn.

Let’s see now why it’s likely that they did so.

The breastplate was a kind of purse or pouch the high priest wore upon his breast over the ephod. It wasn’t really a plate; it was intricately woven of the same fine linen material as the ephod, and folded double to form the pouch about nine inches square. The ephod itself was a garment the priests wore; it was a kind of servant’s apron uniquely proclaiming and qualifying them as servants in the priestly service of God. (This calls to mind the servant’s apron of humility Peter spoke of, 1 Pt. 5:5.) Into the breastplate the Urim and Thummim were placed. These are Hebrew plural words meaning lights and perfections. We are never told just what they were, but possessing the Urim and Thummim meant the certainty of the priest receiving a clear and specific and authoritative word from God—an oracle. And that is no doubt why the Septuagint translators chose for the breastplate the word logeiōn (which is built upon the Greek logos—word).

They are meaningful and beautiful words, then. The oracle of judgment.

Now, the oracle of Urim and Thummim was not primarily for the priest himself; he received the word on behalf of the people of God. Scripture carefully details this point; this was the purpose of the breastplate of judgment. It was for the priest on behalf of the people relative to the purposes of God. In fact, the breastplate was secured to the ephod, the priestly apron, with blue lace at its bottom edge, and gold chains from its top to two shoulder pieces that it “be not loosed from the ephod” (Ex. 28:28), demonstrating that it was not to be used for any other purpose.

The shoulder pieces were made of two onyx stones inscribed, six on each stone, with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The breastplate also had on it the names of the twelve tribes inscribed on gemstones.

And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD upon his two shoulders for a memorial (Ex. 28:12).

And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually (Ex. 28:29).

And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually (Ex. 28:30).

And so the high priest with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his heart (the place of love) and on his shoulders (the place of strength) carried the judgment, the cause, of the people of God before the Lord. And was therefore assured of a clear, authoritative oracle from God. That is the very beautiful picture—and it is but a picture; this is all a highly symbolic portrayal of a powerful spiritual reality.

The reality is this (and let us meditate on those words in Exodus with this reality in mind):

We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the majesty in the heavens… (Heb. 8:1).

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

The Urim and Thummim are His.

In view of this, it’s very enlightening that the initial revelation of the preparation of the priests states that it was Aaron the high priest who was to wear the ephod and the breastplate of judgment with its Urim and Thummim. “…They shall be upon Aaron’s heart when he goeth in before the LORD.” It doesn’t appear that Aaron’s sons were fitted with ephods and breastplates of their own (Ex. 28:40, see also Lev. 8:6-14 ff), although later in the scriptural record we read of priests who wore ephods. Aaron’s sons, then, were priests only inasmuch as they were participants in Aaron’s priesthood.

The significance of this for you and me is that it is our great High priest the Lord Jesus Christ who in the throne of God wears the ephod and has on His heart the breastplate in which are the names of the people of God. It is He who has the Urim and Thummim. He is not just a king on the throne of God, He is also a priest upon that throne: He is deeply indentified with those for whom He is making continual intercession before the throne. He bears our names in His heart and upon our shoulders—I will say further, upon His hands—having made our cause His own.

And His fellow priests are vital participants in His priesthood. Yes, it is He, the Holy One, who has the Urim and Thummim, the authoritative, pure, clear word of God in power for every need of this hour. It is He, the great high priest over the house of God, who has the word of grace needed to fulfill the cause of the people of God, and He will not fail to release that word, to reveal it, to the glory of God. But just as Aaron’s sons were sanctified to be participants in his priesthood, so too we who are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, being thereby made one with our great High Priest in the heavens, are participants in His priesthood. He shares with us that same priestly burden, and provision, for the people of God (Heb. 3:1, 10:19-22).

And so, dear saints of the Lord, partakers of His heavenly calling, let us be encouraged in this hour. Let us do as we are bidden; let us continue to draw near, draw near, draw near, with a true heart in full assurance of faith, that He might commune with us the same Urim and Thummim that are upon His own heart. God has this for His beloved people in this hour. Those who draw nigh Him on behalf of others are assured of the very oracle of God shining forth in this dark and desperate hour. That—the hour that is upon us—is particularly what is on my heart. No doubt we have known this precious oracle of judgment in countless ways, yet I tell you brothers and sisters, my friends, dear saints of the Lord, there is a word-in-waiting in God, hidden in the breastplate of our beloved high priest, and though it has tarried long, it shall not fail to come forth in this desperate hour, shall not fail to burst forth with explosive power and meet the cry of our heart exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.

I Long For Beauty

This will be a bit of a confession. I recently listened to a renowned opera singer performing what I think must be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. It was beauty so exquisite that I was in tears.

This is not the first time I’ve had this experience—the beautiful music, and the tears. Apparently it’s a weakness I have. The tears, I mean. They well up out of my soul when I hear beautiful music.

I took violin lessons as a boy and—another confession—was never very good at it. But I loved the music, and always wished I could play the violin the way I knew it could be played. Those who have listened to great violin music played by a master know what I mean. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No.2 in D Minor played by master violinist Jascha Heifetz, for example. Some consider the Chaconne Heifetz’ signature piece. “We call Bach the Bible,” Heifetz once said, adding, “As many years as I’ve played Bach I don’t think I know him. I’m discovering, and rediscovering, new things.”

(I don’t know if Heifetz said that because the Bible is like that—a book in which one continually discovers and rediscovers new things, the result of which is that after many years one finds oneself saying, “I am so glad I know Him,” but then after reading something else, or even that same passage another time, “I don’t think I know Him.”)

Bach, we are told, wrote his music to glorify God. You know that by listening to his Toccata and Fugue in D Minor played on a magnificent organ. There is a majesty, a grandeur, about this piece; I listen, and the chords start reverberating in my heart, and fill my heart with the fear of God. I cannot listened to this without being overcome with worship.

When this most recent experience was over and I was drying my eyes—it was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu sung (sorry, it is far more than singing, but I can’t think of a better word) by Sissel Kyrkjebo—I realized something about myself that I don’t think I’ve always been able to articulate. Yes, I have always loved beautiful music. But this time I became aware that what’s in my heart is more than that. It’s more akin to an ache, a deep ache for beauty, that apparently over the years has grown in my heart because of all the ugliness in this world. There is a lot of ugliness in the family of man, the result of the grievous disconnect between man and his Creator because of the entrance of sin into the world.

Yet how is it? Fallen man is capable of beauty. I could name the names of many of the great ones in art, music and literature. Where did this beauty come from? It comes from God. All beauty comes from God. Even though man is in a fallen state, vestiges of the original beauty that God bestowed upon Adam are still there.

We see it in the arts. Much beauty. It is seldom returned to Him, that is, given back to Him, although there are some who have returned His beauty to Him, giving Him glory for it. I am thankful that Bach wrote his music to glorify God.

But all too often, man makes himself famous for that beauty or talent instead of God. He keeps it for himself. He uses the beauty God has given him to glorify himself instead of God.

We know where this comes from as well. We gather from our Bible that a being called Lucifer had originally been created in unmatchable beauty. God’s whole purpose in creating him so beautiful was to the intent that he return glory to God for his beauty, and thus bring praise and glory to God. But the time came when Lucifer the light bearer (for so is the meaning of his name) decided to keep that glory for himself. He wanted to be praised himself.

Thus into our universe entered… ugliness.

The beauty of the Lord

The prophet Isaiah acknowledged that there is beauty in man, but added that it is like the flower of the grass—here today and gone the next. We hear words like “the immortal Shakespeare.” Yes, much of what Shakespeare wrote is beautiful, and has endured long. But it’s the flower of the grass. It’s the flower of the grass, which, though beautiful, is but for a moment. There is coming a day when Shakespeare will no more be remembered.

I have come to realize something about this desire in my heart for beauty. This is not something that just grew of its own accord. This came from God. Will He not, then, satisfy this desire? Yes He will, and beyond my greatest expectations. In this ugly world of ours I am going to see beauty (I already see glimpses of it) beyond anything I am yet capable of comprehending—the beauty of the Lord. The psalmist David prophesied of this when he wrote of his one desire—to dwell in the house of the Lord all his days so he could behold the beauty of the Lord.

Think of that, beloved. Where did David anticipate seeing the beauty of the Lord?

One thing have I desired of the LORD: that will I seek after:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life [that is, forever];
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to enquire in His temple (Ps. 27.4).

The beauty of the LORD… in His temple? And so, what am I pursuing in my earthly life—or even in my Christian walk? Anything less?

Let it all go the way of the grass.

For, our Bible tells us of Zion—that is, the new creation Zion—which is “the perfection of beauty,” and “the joy of the whole earth.”

Out of Zion the perfection of beauty God hath shined… (Ps. 50:2).

Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great king (Ps. 48: 2).

Who hath shined out of Zion?

The joy of the whole earth?

Beloved, I do not hear in this hour all the earth shouting for joy because of the beauty of the church, the city of God, the bride of Christ. In fact,

All that pass by clap their hands at thee [in mocking scorn]; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying,
Is this the city that men have called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth? (Lamentations 2:15).

There is a lot of ugliness in our world. And, I am grieved to have to say, there is a lot of ugliness in our churches as well. But the scripture cannot be broken. All that God has promised will yet come to pass. And when we see the beauty of the Lord revealed, unveiled, in Zion—in the temple of God, the church of the living God, the Bride of Christ, the City of God, the new Jerusalem, Mount Zion—all the beauty and glory of man from the beginning of the world will disintegrate to dust and be forever blown away.

Some will shout for joy to see this beauty. Some will weep uncontrollably.

I know which of those two groups I am in.

The Church of the redeemed is the crowning work of the great Artist and Architect and Sculptor Himself. “For we are His workmanship—His poema, the Greek says: His masterpiece, His ultimate work of art—created in Christ Jesus…” When it is fully unveiled—and the Artist finally draws back the veil that has hidden his life’s work—the beauty of the Lord in His new creation Temple will so surpass all the glory of man, so far outshine all the beauty that has ever been seen in man, will so completely eclipse it all… that man’s most beautiful music, poetry, art, sculpture, architecture, achievement… will no more be remembered.

None of the former things will be remembered. For this is what the Temple of the Lord is all about—the full unveiling of the new creation beauty of the eternal Lord God Himself.

Where? Where is this beauty to be seen?

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Dwells in whom? In creatures who were once ugliness, but have been redeemed and transformed by the God of Calvary’s love into the beauty of the Lord by the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin, the ugliness, of the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgIg-CG3qSg

 

The Exegesis Of God–Part Two

Let’s recall from last time Solomon’s proclamation at the inauguration of the temple that God had instructed him to build for Him.

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

This is what Solomon’s temple was all about.  It was to be the place among men where the God who had formerly dwelt in thick darkness now shone forth.  Solomon’s temple was, however, only a shadow of the true temple not made with hands—the Son of God Himself.  And so last time we also quoted a verse from John.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared is the Greek exegesato, and is related to our word exegesis, which is the biblical science of discovering and explaining what the Scriptures really say and mean.  Patient exegesis of the Bible will yield to the yielded much fruit.  But in John 1:18 we discover that the Son of God when He walked the earth was the exegesis of God Himself.  He was the One who explained, made known, revealed, shone forth, the hard-to-understand, unseen, obscure, unknown God.

That’s very wonderful, but I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, “Well and good that Jesus the Son of God was the exegesis of God the Father back then, but He is not here now.”

I know the regret you’re expressing: if only we could have lived back in Jesus’ day… or if only He were still here today.  Too bad the Devil succeeded in tearing down that living Temple in whom God dwelt and was revealed.

Just a minute.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

 Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…
But He spake of the Temple of His body (Jn. 2:19,21).

And so the Devil has his own regrets that he and his cohorts conspired to have the Lord of glory crucified, thinking to be done with Him.  For He rose from the dead.  And He ascended into Heaven, where, seated at the right hand of God, He began His more excellent ministry of the New Covenant, and an enlargement of that Temple which would continue to be the same exegesis of God.

How so?  When Christ ascended to the right hand of God, He “received the promise of the Father” (Acts 2:33), on the day of Pentecost sending the Spirit to His waiting disciples, just as He, in turn, had earlier promised them.

 I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you (Jn. 14.18).

I will come to you?  This is a mystery.  The coming of the Spirit was such that the same One who was the exegesis of God at the right hand of the Father, while continuing to abide at the right hand of the Father in the Heavens, came to His disciples again, and took up residence in them.  For, those in whom the Spirit dwells, it is Christ Himself who dwells in them, as we read in many places in our New Testament.  (For example, Romans 8: 9,10, and many other places that speak of the indwelling Christ.)  And thus they become part of the same Temple Solomon prophesied of, the same habitation the Son of God fulfilled—the same living Exegesis that reveals God and makes Him known among men.

That is the astonishing implication of the sending of the Spirit.  Those in whom Christ dwells now become part of that same exegesis of God that the Son of God was.

This is what the New Covenant assembly is all about, or ought to be.  The church—which was formed by the coming of the Spirit to individual disciples—is to be the fullness of that same Exegesis of God who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

 The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

The fullness of Him?  The church is His very body—the fullness of Him?  I am sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He “spake of the temple of His body” which He said He would raise up.  “The church, which is His body…”  The Devil thought to be rid of Him by the cross.  What he did, to his great chagrin, enabled God to lay in Zion the foundation Stone for an enlargement of that temple.  It began with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.  He comes for nothing less than to continue the same exegesis of God that the Son of God was when He was here.

That is the nature of Christ’s more excellent ministry of the New Covenant.  It is a ministration of the very knowledge of God, and thus, “all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11) .  This is something more than knowledge as we generally think of the word.  It is New Covenant knowledge: the kind of knowledge—the knowledge of God—whom to know means our being like Him.

How imperative, then, that we in the church, as ministers of the New Covenant (which all Christians are to be) give the Prime Minister of the New Covenant—the Holy Spirit—His lordship and pre-eminence in our individual lives, and in our gatherings.  He comes for nothing less than to reveal, to make known, the same God of love and righteousness that dwelt in the Son… so that the same exegesis of God now dwells in and shines forth from the churches—you and me and our brothers and sisters in the churches.

This is what the New Covenant, and the New Covenant assembly, is all about—or is supposed to be—the exegesis of God to a world in darkness.  Anything short of this… we are sorely missing His mark.

And it has to be said that much of what is called church in our day has in fact done that.  Has fallen short.  Has missed the mark.  Let the broken and repentant heart be encouraged.  Christ is still on the Throne at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit sent from the Throne is still in the earth.  The temple He inaugurated at Pentecost is still here, though in the midst of much that man has built cannot always readily be seen.  In fact her enemies are gloating these days that they have succeeded in destroying her and treading her down in the dust.  The Lord on the throne has a surprise in store for His enemies.  The power and principle of His resurrection life is still at work.  He continues to raise up this Temple—the One that was torn down on Calvary’s cross—just as He prophesied He would do.  He will beautify her, set living stones in her just like Himself.  He will yet be fully revealed, will yet shine forth in this temple in all His glory in the Heavens and in the earth…

…And all the confusion and debate and doubt and misunderstanding as to who He is—all the thick darkness—will vanish like the morning mist in the light of the sun.

The High Priest And His Lampstands

I observed in my reading recently that the high priest of the tabernacle that God instructed Moses to make was himself responsible for the care of the lampstand.  It was Aaron himself who was to arrange the seven lamps on the lampstand and light them every evening so that they cast their light in front of the lampstand—that is, toward the Holy of holies (Ex. 25:37, Num. 8:2,3).

And every morning he was to replenish the oil and dress the lamps in readiness—that is, he was to trim the wicks so that when lit again they would burn clearly and brightly without a smoky, sooty flame (Ex. 30:7,8).

I find great comfort in this, for the lampstands of our day are not burning very clearly or brightly, and I don’t seem to have any ability in myself to do anything about it.

What do I mean by the lampstands of our day?  We understand that Moses was to make the lampstand of the tabernacle according to a pattern shown him “in the mount” (Ex. 25:40).  In other words, there was a heavenly reality that this lampstand was just a representation of.

And what is the heavenly reality?  It is the church.  John in The Revelation describes a vision of a certain Man walking in the midst of seven golden lampstands, and John tells us a little further on that these seven lampstands are seven churches.

So a lampstand represents a church.  And He must be a priest, then, this Man, for who but a priest has authority to walk amidst lampstands?  And this is just what we discover Him to be by John’s description of Him.  This Man is dressed in the priestly robe of fine linen down to the foot.

And so here in The Revelation we see our great High Priest walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands—the seven churches—with loving care and attention tending them, replenishing their Oil, trimming their wicks, that they might shine forth with a pure clear light.  He is intent on conforming them to God’s desire—if for their part they will but repent.  He has no word of reproof at all for two of these lampstands (one is characterized by love and and the other by suffering).  For the rest He has words of correction.  In fact one of them (in spite of much that is commendable) is in danger of no longer being considered one of His lampstands.

As I said, I find great comfort in this—that it is the High Priest’s own responsibility to care for and deal with His lampstands.  For, I often mourn over the state of things here in the western world.  The churches of our day, many of them… if their light has not totally gone out, they are dim and sooty in their burning, and they are not focused forward toward the Holy of holies the way the lampstand is supposed to be.  I am not alone in my mourning; many there are who anguish over this, sometimes to the point of despair.  Where is the Oil?  Where is the light?  We are not pointing fingers, we often feel that the lamp of our own life is scarcely shining.

But when we are feeling like this, it is so comforting to remember that primarily it is not up to you and me to deal with all this.  I am not providing excuse for those who don’t care anyway; I am speaking to those who care, those who love the church, and are burdened.  It is the High Priest Himself who is responsible for the condition of His lampstands, His churches, and He will not be negligent in doing so.  It is the light of the glory of God that is at stake, and He will not rest till His lampstands are shining forth the pure light of the glory of the Lord.

What does this mean for us, then, for you and for me?  It means we can anticipate this One revealing Himself, this One who calls Himself “the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5).  Yes, He is faithful.  He will not leave His lampstands in their present dismal state.  This is what my heart is set on—seeing Him.  It’s easy enough to point out how poorly the lamps are shining these days, and many major on this.  But I don’t have much of a heart for criticizing churches.  What I long for and set my heart on is the appearing of this Man who begins to walk in the midst of the lampstands dealing effectively with things.

He is going to do this, beloved.

But… think about this.  Just how will He do this?  Beloved, He will do this by walking in the midst of the lampstands, the churches—by the Holy Spirit in you and in me.  Does this grip you the way it grips me?  I know that in myself I can make no impact on the churches—nor is it my responsibility.  But this One is going to make His appearing—in fact is beginning to make His appearing—and as I see Him in whatever way He reveals Himself to me… what I speak and do in whatever church situation I am involved in… will be His very own speaking and doing.

I tremble at that.

John describes this One.  Clothed with a garment down to the foot, the fine linen of His own righteousness covering His whole body.  Girt about the breasts with a golden belt or sash that sustains the heart and its motives with purity in every situation no matter how grievous.  His head and His hair white as wool, as snow—the maturity and authority of the Ancient of Days, and perfect purity of thought.  Piercing, penetrating eyes from which none can hide, yet consuming in fire all the uncleanness that is exposed.  Feet (yes, His feet) glowing like bronze in a furnace as He steps forth for justice and judgment.  His voice like the sound of many waters blended together in perfect harmony.  Seven stars (His messengers, His ministries) in His right hand of authority, and a sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of His mouth.  And His countenance like the sun shining in its strength.

You consider this, and you tremble.  This One walks in the midst of the churches.  This One has—or rather, is—in Himself all that is necessary to bring the churches into full conformity to the will and intention of God…

So that God is as glorified in the church as He was in Christ Himself when He walked the earth (Eph. 3:21).

That is going to be utterly devastating in one sense.

But very, very wonderful in another.

The Lord Is In His Holy Temple

How deeply we need in this hour the Presence of the Lord in His temple.  Nothing else, nothing less, will resolve the impossible things many of us are up against.  Our Lord knows this, and Himself longs to inhabit His temple far more deeply than we can comprehend.  So we must take courage, and continue looking to Him with longing anticipation.  It is He Himself who has nourished this longing in us for the very reason that He is preparing to reveal Himself in His temple once again.  He is going to come to His temple.

We have this promise.  “The LORD whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple…” (Mal. 3.1).

We are warned of the devastating implications of this.  “But who may abide the day of His coming?  And who shall stand when He appeareth?  For His is like a refiner’s fire and fullers’ soap…”

This has happened already—in measure.  The Lord suddenly came to His temple—in cleansing fire and purifying soap—when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  Oh, the cleansing, the purifying, that this coming wrought!  God was in His holy temple again… just as He had been when Jesus was here in the flesh.

Jesus was the temple of God in the earth.  The Devil thought to destroy that Temple by having Him crucified.  Much to his dismay and chagrin, what he did greatly enlarged that temple.  And so we find Paul challenging the Corinthians, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3.16).

This takes my breath away.  To be filled with the Holy Spirit means becoming a temple of God.

This ought to make us tremble.  It is a wondrous, yet fearsome, prospect.

Here is a phrase of Scripture that arrests me.  I find myself thinking on it again and again.  You will remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  As others were doing, they brought a gift to the church, the only difference being that they gave the impression they were giving the full price of the land they had sold when in fact they had kept back part of it for themselves.  Keeping some for themselves was not wrong, of course, but letting on that they had given all (like others) was pure deceit.

And Peter said, “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”  That’s the phrase that fascinates me.  “…to lie to the Holy Spirit.”   Do you see the implications?  Ananias thought he was just lying to a man, to Peter, something experience had taught him he could get away with.  But this day it caught up with him.  For, the Holy Spirit dwelt in Peter.  And Ananias suddenly found himself lying to the Holy Spirit.

And so Peter told him, “Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5.4).

The thing is… people lie every day without consequence.  What’s the difference here, then?  This.  With the coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell in the disciples, the God of Heaven becomes also the God of the earth.  He is no longer just way up in Heaven.  He is present here.

This is what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he said that “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4.13).  Of course, you say, God in Heaven sees everything.  But when the seven eyes of the Lord are in the earth because of the Holy Spirit in His temple, a word sharper than any two-edged sword goes forth piercing and penetrating and laying bare the thoughts and intents of the heart.

And so Ananias might just as well have been in the court of Heaven lying straight to the face of God Almighty when he told his lie.  As it was, because of the Holy Spirit in Peter, the God of heaven was here in the earth.  The Lord was in His holy temple.

I know many these days are crying out for a return of the Lord to His temple.  As am I.

But I tremble for this.  When it comes, people are going to discover themselves face to face with God in His holy temple.  They are going to find themselves in conversation with God when they converse with you and me.  And this will do what nothing else has been able to do.  For some it will mean very devastating consequences.  For others… I am not saying this is always going to mean such a devastating thing.  For others it will mean a broken and a contrite heart.

Oh, how those around us need a meeting with God.  A meeting with God Himself… in His holy temple.

Let us seek this relationship, let us give ourselves to this, let us long for this, let us wait for it.  Let it be so even now… inasmuch as you and I seek to abide in Him, and He in us.

The Minister Of The Church

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Continuing with what has been on my heart the last while—this verse in Hebrews again:

Now a summary of the things being spoken of is, we have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the greatness in the heavens; a minister of the holies, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man (Heb. 8.1).

If we as God’s people were to become more conscious of this reality it would revolutionize the way we do church.  For, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the minister of the holy things in the true tabernacle (or temple) of God.  It’s ingrained in us to think of the pastor as the main minister of a church.  But this concept is a falling away from the biblical model.  The true model is one of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself being the primary minister in the church.  He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, but by the Holy Spirit He is present right here in our midst—the great High Priest ministering about the holy things of God.  Pastors (shepherds) indeed have a vital place in the church, but not as the centre of ministry.  They are just one among many ministries the Lord has ordained in a kingdom of priests each one of whom is to be involved in the church—vitally involved.

How then can I, an ordinary Christian, become vital?  As I said last time, by becoming conscious of Jesus Christ Himself, the Minister of the holy things in His tabernacle.  What I see Him doing I do; that becomes my authority and power to function in His church, because it is actually His own ministry.

And–this is a very great challenge–liberty must be given in the assembly for this High Priest to minister through whom He chooses.

How we need to be more conscious of Him, then–this great High Priest ministering about the holy things of God in the true tabernacle.  He is clothed in white linen down to the foot—white linen, symbolic of rest; His is a ministry that is not His own works and strivings; the things He does, His righteous works, are the rest of the Spirit.  And so as we become conscious of Him, the same grace that empowers Him begins to lay hold of us, and we too cease from our own works; we abide in His rest, doing only what we see Him doing.  No matter how trying the situation we are in, or how difficult, our own labours will not resolve it; we must surrender all, and trust that the One clad in the priestly robe of white linen is at the same time seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the Heavens with all power in heaven and earth.   He is able to accomplish, and shall accomplish, what nothing else can accomplish.  He shall accomplish all.

He has upon Him, over the white linen garment, the robe of blue and the ephod; He has upon His shoulders (the place of strength) and upon His breastplate (the place of love and affection) the names of His people; He bears their cause before the Throne of Grace; He has in that breastplate the Urim and Thummim of perfect light as to the Father’s will for them, and has power to carry out that will.

He wears upon His head a turban of the same white linen wrapt round and round—for His thoughts are not the toiling and spinning of a labouring mind, but the mind of the Spirit, which is life and peace.

Crowning it all is the golden plate with the words, Holiness unto the LORD. 

 And the anointing oil upon His head drips down to the skirts of His garments… even to the foot.

And—awaken us, Lord—all this is to be operative not just way up in Heaven, but right here in our midst in the true tabernacle because of the Holy Spirit.  In the Holy Spirit we ourselves become vitally conscious of all this, are joined to this High Priest in the expression of all this, are partakers of this character and light and power.  At least this is God’s intention for us in the New Covenant.

So we must not stop short of this till it is reality in our experience.  We must not settle for less.

Take this wondrous mystery—of Christ our High Priest being right here in our midst by the Holy Spirit in you and me—a step further.  This great High Priest reveals Himself to you in a certain way, and to me in another way.  It is your consciousness of what He is doing that governs your participation in His priestly ministry in His tabernacle; my consciousness of Him governs my participation. Thus we become a kingdom of priests each one with a unique expression of the High Priest Himself.  At times He may reveal Himself to us in the same way, and we find ourselves praying together, or ministering together… as He Himself prays and ministers.  Our consciousness of Christ—what we see Him doing, hear Him saying—governs our participation in His ministry.  And because it is He Himself who is ministering in all we say and do, we discover ourselves in perfect harmony with one another—a body perfectly coordinated by the Head.

I anticipate that this Great King Priest of ours is about to reveal Himself in the Holy Spirit such that you and I will become more and more conscious of Him, and of what He is doing—more aware, actually, that we are one with Him.

At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you (Jn. 14.20).

What day?  The day of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.  Oh, the wonder of this!  By the Holy Spirit in us we are one with Him.  For the Holy Spirit is one with Him.  “I will not leave you comfortless,” He said.  “I… will come to you.”  You say, I have the Holy Spirit but I don’t have what you are talking about.  Yes, and neither do I.  But the Day of the coming of the Comforter is not over yet.  Before this Day is over you and I are going to be fully awakened and conscious of this unity—that we are one with the Son of God, this Great High Priest of the true tabernacle.  This consciousness will become the inspiration and empowering of all we say and do.

And what we do will actually be His own doing

…Just as Christ Himself said, “I do only those things which I see My Father do.”  He was one with His Father; in all He did, He was just doing what His Father was doing.  He was conscious of His Father; He knew what His Father was doing.  In fact He said that it was the Father who dwelt in Him that was doing the works (Jn. 14.10).

Can you envision yourself saying the same thing—that the thing you just did… it was actually the Son of God who dwells in you who did that?  This is what the Holy Spirit in you and me is all about.  The Holy Spirit here in the earth does what He sees the Son doing in Heaven; He speaks what He hears the Son speaking, and nothing else.  He reveals the Son of God in you and me; He makes us one with the Son.

He shall not speak of (from) Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak, and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine, and shew it unto you (Jn. 16.13,14).

“He shall glorify Me…”  How we long to see Him glorified in the earth again!  And we shall see it.  In fact shall be part of it.  For the Holy Spirit is committed to this cause.

There is nothing more wondrous, more precious, more holy, more beautiful, more awesome, more meaningful, more filled with purpose, than this—that when Jesus Christ ascended to the Father, He received the Promise of the Father—the Holy Spirit—in a dimension and empowering that enabled Him to send that Spirit into our hearts, thus making us one with Himself.

Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.

The Eagle Comes To Church

Martin Collison who sometimes comments on A Mending Feast emailed me something recently which he quietly calls “a picture.”  He says it was “an impression stamped upon (his) mind,” which is akin to a vision, I would say.  (It’s an experience he has from time to time.)  In any case it strongly impacted my spirit, and I thought I would pass it along.

I had a picture come to me this week. I saw the lectern on the stage of a church; one of those stands that preachers rest their notes on. Then an eagle came down; swooped down and landed on the lectern. The presence of the eagle cut the atmosphere and it carried such spiritual authority. It brought certainty and definitiveness where there had been vacillation. Its authority could not be denied. Many in the congregation ran at its mere appearance on the scene even before it opened its mouth. I knew that the eagle was a symbol of the true prophet and it would tear down falsehoods within the church. Many would not want to hear the words he would speak so they ran for the exits.

I recognize this to be one of our greatest needs—if not our greatest need—the true authority of Christ in the churches.  There’s an old song that’s right in line with Martin’s “picture.”

Touch your people once again
With your precious holy hand, we pray;
Let your kingdom shine upon this earth
Through a living glorious church;
Not for temporary deeds,
But to restore authority and power:
Let a mighty rushing wind come in;
Touch your people once again.

How deeply we need this—the restoration of spiritual authority and power—this mighty rushing wind of the Holy Spirit that returns to us the authority of Christ.  Martin says the presence of this eagle “cut the atmosphere.”  It “carried such spiritual authority.”  In fact the eagle is one of the faces of Christ as portrayed in the cherubim (Ezek. 1.10).  And so when this “eagle” speaks all doubt disintegrates.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself has spoken… and all the place is pregnant with His authority.

Martin adds this:

I have been wondering recently whether we who are the Lord’s and seek to carry the fullness of the Kingdom are not yet fully aware of the contention of the enemy against us.

I wonder that myself.  I think we are largely unaware of the extent to which the Enemy resists us.  For certain, he has always resisted the coming forth of this kind of authoritative word—and will do so vehemently when it begins to break forth again.  I have seen it happen in the past, and I know we are going to see it again.  God’s adversary (and ours) is dead set against His authority.  In fact this is what he challenged from his beginning; it’s what garnered him the name change from Lucifer to Satan.

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most high (Isa. 14.13,14).

This is a glimpse into the rebellion among the angels that the Bible hints at in two or three places, and which the Serpent succeeded in contaminating the family of man with.  As a result we see this same Satanic resistance to the true authority of God all through history—as when Pharaoh decreed the destruction of the newborn Hebrews… as when Herod the Great did the same thing at Bethlehem of Judaea, seeking to wipe out any chance of the true king of Israel coming to the throne of David… as when Ahab’s daughter Athaliah sought to destroy all the seed royal out of Judah (2 Chr. 22.10).

We see it also in Satan’s resistance to the true prophetic word—as in Jezebel’s campaign to exterminate the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18.4).  Ultimately she zeroed in on the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19.2).  Her husband Ahab went along with her in all this—reluctantly no doubt, but too weak willed to resist her.  We see the same spirit at work when Herodias sought the head of John the Baptist.  Her husband Herod, again reluctantly, went along with her too.  And we see this same “Jezebel” in The Revelation riding upon a scarlet-coloured beast “drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17.6).  “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints…” (Rev. 18.24).  She who calls herself a prophetess—and Christ reproved the church of Thyatira for going along with her—is thirsty for the blood of the prophets.  For she stands against the true word of God—the testimony of Jesus Christ.  It is the Spirit of prophesy that is hated—the testimony of Jesus Christ.

And for this very reason the church must be this “lectern” Martin saw with the eagle upon it.  The church must have this prophetic Testimony, this authoritative word, with the presence of the eagle permeating all.  I believe it is a corporate thing, this eagle, and not just one man.  Paul called for the earnest prayers of the saints at Ephesus that he might have liberty to declare the word of God boldly—and make known the “mystery of the Gospel” (Eph. 6.18).  He, the mighty apostle, could not function independently.  He’d been given the revelation of the body of Christ on the Damascus Road, and ever after he recognized his need for the other members of that Body.  He was continually calling for the prayers of the saints.  He needed their support as Moses needed Aaron and Hur to stay up his arms.  Yes, it was Paul’s mouth the word went forth from, but it was a joint operation of the body of Christ that enabled it.  Paul sought the same thing from the Colossians, “that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds…” (Col. 4.3).

I believe we are going to see this eagle in church again—this kind of authoritative word, this kind of anointing.  But let us be ready for the consequences.  The Enemy does not take kindly to this kind of Gospel going forth—the kind in which the eyes of sinful men are opened to see what the mystery of Christ is all about.  The true Gospel of Christ is a very powerful Gospel, a high and far-reaching Gospel.  It’s a Gospel that must go forth in the power and authority of the eagle.  And when it does there is going to be prey for her young ones.

Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she (Job. 39.27-30).

Lord, open our eyes!  How near-sighted we have become, and blind!  No wonder our young people are in the condition they are in—worldly minded, with little or no interest in spiritual things.  Can they be blamed?  What kind of Gospel do we have for them?  We must have more for them than games and pizza on Friday nights at the church—along with a little side of MacWord, as a friend calls it.  Oh, you protest, but how else can we get them in?  We’ve got to give them games and pizza… and the heavy metal rock music they’re into, or their reggae, or even magicians if necessary, and clowns to entertain them.  Anything to get them to come!  So we can slip in that little gospel MacWord on the side.

Here’s another way to get them to come.  Shut all that down, and cry out like this: Jesus, call your eagles to church—those who dwell and abide upon the Rock, and whose eyes see into the distances of the Spirit… and bring nigh what they see afar off!  Then there will be prey for our young ones—the mystery of Christ—the revelation of God in once-fallen man.  Then there will be young eagles growing up in our midst—a whole new kind of young people!

And our Adversary the Devil will have to cope with the consequences.