Tag Archives: ever-increasing table

The Lamb Is My Shepherd

In the following devotional the personal pronoun “I” has been used. Dear reader, if you are one of the sheep of His pasture, you are invited to take this “I” unto yourself. If you are not one of the sheep of His pasture, oh, become one!

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 I have a loving Shepherd of my soul, who, when I had gotten myself very lost (as all we of Adam’s race do) went as far as a hill called Calvary to find me in a valley called Sin and Death.

My Shepherd had to die to come to me where I was—dead in trespasses and sins.

Then, the God of peace brought again from the dead that great Shepherd of the sheep—my Lord Jesus Christ—in the blood of an everlasting covenant.

When He arose He brought me up with Him: He took me up in His arms and carried me in His bosom, and brought me out from that desolate valley into a green pasture called Resurrection Life, a high mountain pasture where, as the Lamb in the midst of the throne of God, He continues to shepherd me, by His Spirit leading me daily to fountains of living waters. I thirst no more. I hunger no more. I walk with Him daily in newness of life—His life. The blazing sun does not beat down upon me, nor any heat, for He who sits on the Throne has spread the shady Tabernacle of Himself over me.

This Lamb who gave Himself for me is my shepherd, the overseer of my soul. He watches over me daily, keeping me, protecting me from marauding lions and bears. He causes me to lie down in His green pastures of living truth. He leads me beside the waters of rest. Daily He restores my soul, provisioning me afresh with all I need to do His will, working in me what is wellpleasing in His sight.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His own Names’ sake.  Leads me, I say. For He Himself is ever with me. Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death with evil about me on every hand, I fear no evil. For, now I am no longer a subject under the shadow, the domain, of King Death. My Lamb-Shepherd has redeemed me from that king, and now, just as the children of Israel lived securely “under the shadow” of their kings, I live under the shadow of the Anointed King Jesus, the breath of my nostrils, whose shadow is the reign of grace, of righteousness and peace, of life and light and liberty.

And so we walk together, my Shepherd and I, He leading, and I following, in the Pathway He has chosen for us through the valley of the shadow of death. No longer a resident here, I am just passing through.

My Shepherd King is with me. So I fear no evil. He has a rod and a staff, and they comfort me—the rod to deal with my enemies, or to correct me when I need it myself, and a staff that sustains me, holds me up.

He prepares a table before me in the very presence of my enemies, who, though they continue to roar and threaten, can no longer torment me with fear.

The head of my Shepherd-king is anointed with oil, and that oil flows down upon my head, making me a king too.

It is all too, too much. His cup, my cup, runs over.

My Shepherd the Lamb of God went as far as Calvary and the grave to seek out and find this lamb. What comfort—to continue to lean on Him and trust Him daily in every circumstance great or small. He—my Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd and Bishop of my soul, “has come into my circumstances with divine and tender love, making Himself acquainted with all the little details of my life; and He has brought me, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in endless life, into His own magnificent circumstances, where I enjoy the light of His countenance… where I am the delight of His heart.” (J.B. Stoney)

Now, instead of my enemies pursuing me relentlessly every day, His goodness and His mercy pursue me all the days of my life.

I shall be dwelling in the House of my Shepherd forever. I know and trust that as I do so, God will, in His time, wipe away each and every tear from my eyes.

(Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:20,21; 1 Peter 2:25; Revelation 7:15-17; Lamentations 4:20)

 

 

 

 

 

Keep The Feast Of Tabernacles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ever Increasing Kingdom

There is a feast that “mends in length” — that grows greater, better, richer, fuller, deeper, the longer it continues.  This feast is, really, the table of the Kingdom of God, where we are sitting down with our King at His table, and in His kingdom.

It is a kingdom the increase of which shall know no end.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

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 forever” (Isaiah 9.6,7).

There shall be no end to the increase of this kingdom—its government, its peace.  This kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that cannot be destroyed.  In fact, as many as have sought to come against and destroy this kingdom have only caused it to increase.

Daniel saw “a Stone cut out without hands” (there’s your Rock that came down from Heaven, Cole) that smote a great image of gold and silver and bronze and iron and clay—smote it upon its feet.  And the whole thing came crashing down, “and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them.  And the Stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2.35).

This is what happened at Calvary.  The Son of God at Calvary, as they drove in the nails— it was God who was doing the smiting.

Jesus the Son of God had come on the scene pronouncing that the kingdom of the heavens was at hand.  He went about ministering this wonderful kingdom—preaching to the poor the Glad Tidings of this kingdom, healing the sick, casting out demons…  The kingdom of God was not something to come some distant day down the ages.  The king of the kingdom was present!  The kingdom of God had come nigh!

“But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11.20).

Satan was not happy with all this.  If this One were allowed to continue on, it would be the utter demise of his own kingdom.  He had to do something about it.  And so he conspired to have the King of this kingdom crucified.

People get fascinated by conspiracy theories.  God had His own conspiracy par excellence in the works.  What happened at Calvary was a sting operation like none other.  For, when Satan sought to put a halt to this kingdom by conspiring to have the king of this kingdom crucified—and he succeeded in his evil design—much to his everlasting dismay, all he succeeded in doing was causing this kingdom to increase!

For, when the risen and ascended King sat down on the Throne of the Kingdom at the right hand of the Father and sent forth His Holy Spirit upon the waiting disciples, this was the increase of His kingdom!  And now they went forth in multiplied numbers proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Acts 8.12, 14.22, 19.8, 28.23,31) .

Oh, what a wonder.  Oh, the wisdom of God—“the wisdom of God in a mystery… which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Corinthians 2.8).

In spite of all his knowledge—and he prides himself on his knowledge, we are told: Ezekiel 28.3,17—Satan (I say this respectfully) seems to be a slow learner.  He just never seems able to comprehend the wisdom of the Cross.  For he continues to assault this everlasting kingdom to this day.  What shall the end be of all his malice, I wonder?  For he is working overtime these days, intent on obliterating this kingdom from the earth.  At times it seems he has almost succeeded… as he did that day at Calvary.  (We are smiling at this now, aren’t we?)

…Beloved saints of the Most High—the ones Daniel in another of his visions saw taking the kingdom, Dan. 7,18—let us not be slow learners ourselves.  Let us walk in the wisdom of God.  Let us take up our own cross, and follow Jesus.  I confess… I myself have been such a slow learner in this area.  Even so, I continue to take my place as a disciple at the feet of Jesus.  For, wherever the saints of the Most High are taking up their cross and following Jesus, are standing true in their troubles, are fighting the good fight of faith, are fighting the Lamb’s war, are seeking to overcome evil with good, are walking in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit… this is the fellowship of the “kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ”—and the increase of His everlasting kingdom is inevitable.

And God has a surprise in store.  The hour is at hand when this kingdom shall “come”—shall be openly manifested in great fullness.  When, and where, shall it stop?  Never, apparently.

Daniel saw this mountain filling the whole earth.  Isaiah saw a day when its increase would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11.9).

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The Ever Increasing Feast

There is a feast that forever mends in length – it grows greater, richer, fuller.  The longer it goes, the greater it grows.  The more this feast is partaken of, the more there is to partake of.

What a wonder.  How can this be?  How can there be more in the dish after I have taken from it?  Yet it is so.  Jesus began to feed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes.  Yet after they had all eaten and were full, there was more left over than when they began.
“And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full” (Matthew 14.20).
How did this come about?  It happened because the five loaves and two fishes were broken in His hands.

“…And (He) took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake…”

Wonderful mystery.  Christ’s hands break the loaves, and suddenly a great increase takes place.

This reminds us of His words to His disciples at the feast of the Passover before He suffered.  Here is Paul’s account of it.

“…The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread;
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is My body, which is broken for you…” (1 Corinthians 11.24).

What an amazing thing.  His body was broken on the Cross.  Yet this breaking was the very thing that caused that Body to increase!
…And it increases to this day – the many-membered body of Christ – and it grows greater in spite of all that comes against it.  In fact all attempts to break it – difficult circumstances, afflictions, persecutions – only cause it to grow and multiply.

How can this be?  It is the wondrous power of resurrection life at work.  Jesus said on the eve of the Cross, “Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12.24).

Let us remember this in the midst of our own trials and sufferings — our own breakings.  Let us be assured of the wondrous power of God in the mystery of the Cross of Christ.  The Cross of Christ is that wondrous way by which God, in His great wisdom, brought to naught the power of death.

For, what is falling into the ground and dying to a seed?

If that living Seed is in you and me, nothing that comes against us can hurt us.  In fact, all that comes against us only causes that Seed to grow, and multiply.
And… what is breaking to a loaf of bread?

When we keep our hearts aright — when we stay in the loving hands of our Lord — nothing can rob us of our place at this ever-increasing Table… where we are both guest, and, in His hands, the bread He breaks for others.

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