Tag Archives: Way

Now’s Our Chance To Walk On The Sea

As we head into 2015 I have been much inspired by a quote I came across a few days ago.

 Never mind your infirmities.  You have nothing to do with them.  Your business is to trust, and to go forward.  If you wait till the sea becomes land, you will never walk on it.  (Edward Payson, 1783-1827)

I was gripped by the last statement, but perplexed by the second.  What do you mean, I have nothing to do with my infirmities?  I have many infirmities—weaknesses both of body and soul.  Then light dawned.  “Himself took our infirmities, and carried our sicknesses” (Mt. 8:17).  He has borne them; they are His now, not mine.  Even while they are yet with me.  In fact I myself am not my own.  As one bought with a Price, I am His.   So my troubles and griefs and burdens are His as well.  They are His business.  My business is to trust and go forward.  Walking on the sea.  If I wait till the sea is land (some day there will be no more sea, Rev. 21:1) I will have missed the golden opportunity to walk in the pathway of my Lord’s victory over it all—the pathway of faith.

After I read this quote I turned again to the passage about Peter walking on the water.  Jesus had compelled his disciples to get into a boat and go over to the other side while He sent away the multitudes He had just fed.  He then went up into a mountain to pray (Mk. 6:46).

And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land.  And He saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them (Mk. 6:47).

He certainly has good eyesight to see them at that distance, considering that He was “in a mountain apart,” and they out on the sea in the growing darkness.  Let us be encouraged by this to know that in the Mountain He is now in He has that same good eyesight, and sees us in the midst of our troubles, and is making intercession for us, as He did for His disciples in the storm.

 And about the fourth watch of the night He cometh to them walking upon the sea… (Mk. 6:48).

It would appear that they had set out just before 6 p.m.  For, “when even was come,” they were already out to sea, and the first watch, the evening watch, was from six till nine p.m.  The second watch was from nine p.m. till midnight, the third watch from midnight to 3 a.m.  So these guys have been toiling in rowing all night—from evening till the fourth watch of the night—3 a.m. to 6 a.m.  That is when they see… they don’t know what they see, it’s still very dark, with the waves dashing against the boat threatening to break it to pieces and send them to the bottom at any moment, and the swells rising and falling, their boat now high on a crest, now deep in a trough, and….  what was that?  Did you see what I just saw?  I thought I saw… no, it’s gone again, my eyes must be playing tricks on me, I really have to get some sleep.  No, there it is again!  Closer now!  It’s… a ghost!   They cry out, grown men paralyzed with fear.  Jesus immediately calls out, “Be of good courage!  It is I!  Be not afraid.”

Peter responds, that familiar and irresistible leap in his heart, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.”

Jesus says to him, “Come” (Mt. 14:29).

At this, Peter gets out of the boat.  He is not going to wait till the sea becomes land.  He simply cannot pass up the opportunity to walk this impossible walk that Jesus Himself walks, whatever the risk.  And “he walked on the water to go to Jesus.”  I remember our old friend George Warnock saying that he had seen many paintings of Jesus walking on the water, but never one of Peter walking on the water.  They always show him sinking.  But Peter—how astonishing is this—walked on the water.

To come to Jesus.  That’s how the Greek here is better translated—come, which is how Young’s Literal Translation has it.  “To come to Jesus.”  So the whole scenario has not Peter, but Jesus at the centre.

That’s the secret of walking on the sea.  Coming to Him at His bidding.   Believing that we can do anything He bids us do.

And so, dear Lord, here we are in the fourth watch of the night, and in the turmoil of the storm and the darkness we aren’t seeing You very clearly just yet, just glimpses of You obscured by the dark of the night and the swells of the sea.  But if that’s really You walking on the sea in this dark hour to come to us, bid us come unto You on the water!

I think that in the context of this story, the sea signifies the whole world of the first Adam under the reign of sin and death, which in our day is rising up in a cataclysmic and violent and terrifying storm.  It is going to take walking on water—an impossible walk—to come to Jesus in this hour.  Nevertheless, this is by the Lord’s design.  In this very hour He bids those who hear His Voice to come unto Him walking above that whole realm, walking in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which enables those who walk in the Spirit to walk free of the law of sin and death.  Yes, even while sin and death are on the rampage.  We don’t want to wait till the sea becomes land.  We want to walk on the sea.  We want to come to Jesus “on the water.”  All the provision we need is hearing Him say, “Come,” and responding in faith.

So let us incline our ear to hear His Voice, and keep our eyes off the boisterous waves of the storm, and let us trust, and go forward!

 

The New Man River

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

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

And I realized that this is all God is seeking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Hidden Pathway

We’ve been talking of a certain Way which the redeemed of the Lord can walk in through the wilderness of this world.  Isaiah tells us they’re safe as they walk therein, for it’s a path that lions and other ravenous beasts cannot walk in.  They know nothing of this pathway.

No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there… (Isa. 35.9).

Job talked of this same Pathway.

There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen:
The lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it (that is, along it)” (Job 28.7,8).

Job has been talking of the great lengths men will go to as they explore the natural creation (I urge you to read that whole chapter); they stop at nothing to mine out its hidden riches.  In our day we see this same unquenchable quest in the field of technology. From day to day you wonder what will be next, where it will stop; man has such a voracious appetite for knowledge, he continues to search out things to the utter limit.

But, as Job says, with all this there is a certain Something that man simply cannot find.

But where shall wisdom be found?  And where is the place of understanding?  Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living.

And so it’s wisdom that Job is seeking to disclose to us—the way of wisdom, the place of understanding.

But what does he mean by the land of the living?  He is not referring to the land of those alive in Christ, but the “land” confined to the life and earthly boundaries of the natural man.  The things of God are foolishness to this man, “neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2.14).

Job continues to ask this question; I am sure he does so to stir us to begin probing and asking the same question.

Whence then cometh wisdom?  And where is the place of understanding?
Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air (Job 28.20,21).

There is a Way that the “fowls” of the heaven, and the vultures—those principalities and powers in the heavenlies—have not seen.  Apparently the vulture has such a keen eye that it can see its carrion from so high in the air that it would look like no more than a speck to you and me.  But even with that piercing eye it cannot see this Pathway.  This Pathway is “kept close” from the fowls of the air.  Maybe we think that the Devil and his princes in the heavenly realm have great insight, and can see a lot.  But they know nothing of this pathway.

For if they had known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2.8).

It’s the Way of Wisdom—the wisdom of the Cross—that Jesus walked in to the ultimate dismay of the Princes of this world.  This must be why Job says,

Destruction and death say, we have heard the fame thereof with our ears.

For, Christ brought destruction and death to naught by walking in the Way of this wisdom.  He destroyed them with their own devices.

There are also some very frightening beasts spoken of in Scripture, beasts with many heads and horns, beasts like bears and leopards and lions, beasts that look like lambs but speak like dragons.  The “beasts” also know nothing of this pathway.  They cannot go up thereon, cannot touch anyone who is walking in this Pathway.

And so Job brings us to his conclusion. There is One who knows this Pathway, and the Place it leads to.

God understandeth the way thereof, and He knoweth the place thereof.
For He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;
To make the weight for the winds; and He weigheth the waters by measure.
When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder:
Then did He see it, and declare it; He prepared it, and searched it out.
And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.

Those words echo often in my ears.  Behold… Behold…. the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding…

Do I see?  Do I yet understand? Do I yet behold this wondrous Way, this hidden Way, this prepared Way God has for me?  Am I searching it out with Him—this Way of Wisdom? Do I know the Place thereof?

It’s all so wondrous, so awesome, and who am I?  I don’t think I’m all that wise.  How am I to discover this Way?  How am I to walk in it?  Paul the apostle calls it “the hidden wisdom” (1 Cor. 2.7), and it’s the same Pathway Job says is hidden from the fowls of the air.  Those are very intelligent beings.  If it’s hidden from them, who am I?  But Jesus said these things were hidden “from the wise and prudent.” And “revealed unto babes” (Mt. 11.25).  Here then is our answer.  It’s not found in seeking to be wise in our own eyes, but in seeking to get into a certain Yoke and learn from Him who is meek and lowly of heart.

The Way—My Destination

Isaiah prophesied that “in the wilderness shall waters break forth, and streams in the desert.”  And he said, “a highway shall be there, and a way…” (Isa. 35.8).  He is talking of something God has created—a river, a way—through the terrible wilderness of life.

This is a theme much on Isaiah’s heart, for he brings it up again in Chapter 43.  Notice again the intermingling of these two—the water, and the way.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth: shall ye not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert (Isa. 43.19).

We’ll speak more of this river road in a coming blog entry, but first we want to ask: just what is a highway?  In our day and age we think immediately of the asphalt freeway out there.  When you want to go somewhere you don’t have to make your own way; you just get on the highway and step on the gas, and you are soon at your destination.  And this is the idea behind the Bible word.  It means simply a raised way, a HIGHway, a prepared way.  Back in those days they built their roads by going along and casting rocks and other obstructions out of the way.  They would level the terrain to some extent by bringing down high places and raising up low places.  Thus, they would “cast up” the highway, and there are several Bible passages that use this imagery—one we’re very familiar with.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert an highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain;
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed… (Isa. 40.3-5).

This was the way, the highway, that God prepared for the coming of the glory of the Lord—His Son.  He had a man go before Him to prepare His way.

And it’s a highway—the same way of the Lord—that we too are to walk in.  When Isaiah prophecies of the return of God’s people from their Babylonian captivity, he brings up this same highway through the wilderness.

Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people (Isa. 57.14).

Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people (Isa. 62.10).

This is an utterly awesome prophecy.  There comes a time when God brings His people out through the gates of Babylon where they have been captives, His intent being to return them to Zion, His own dwelling place, where He will dwell in their midst.  I realize we’ve seen this in a measure all through the new covenant dispensation.  But the promise of God is that there will yet be a great company returning on this highway.

Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together; a great company shall return thither.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble… (Jer. 31.8,9).

Why won’t they stumble?  It’s because God sees to it that the stumblingstones that have been such a hindrance to His people are removed.  Thus they walk in a prepared Way, a way raised up, a way not of our own making, a Way of rest—right through that great and terrible wilderness of ours.  I am not trying to be unfeeling, but I don’t care how difficult, how grievous, how tormenting, how impassable, that terrible wilderness of yours and mine is; the God who loves us with an everlasting love has created a Highway there, and you and I the redeemed of the Lord shall walk therein, and return to Zion, the heavenly City unto which our Lord Jesus Christ has brought us in the New Covenant (Heb. 12.22).

One more thing.  This way of rest… it sounds so easy.  You mean this is something for the idle, the spiritually lazy?  Not when you consider this verse:

The way of the slothful is an hedge of thorns, but the way of the righteous is made plain (Pr. 15.19).

Notice the contrast.  The slothful are travelling a way that’s so difficult it’s like trying to get through a hedge of thorns.  The righteous are walking in an easy way.  The Hebrew says something like, “the way of the upright is raised up as a causeway, or highway.”  It’s the same word used in the other verses about casting up the highway.  This is what the way of the upright is like; it’s a prepared way, a way raised up.  The upright don’t have to contend with brambles and thorns as they try to make their own way; they just have to follow the prepared way.

I like this very much.  I am not being slothful when I am seeking to walk in rest.  On the contrary, it’s slothful to neglect this beautiful highway.  I understand that.  This highway must be maintained.  It takes earnest spiritual diligence, earnest prayer, and continually maintaining a close communion with the Lord Jesus, to walk in this prepared Way, the Way of the Spirit.  It’s far from slothful; it’s when we neglect it that we are being slothful.

And if we neglect it we will continue to walk through thorns.  I know by personal experience what it’s like to try to fight my way through the wilderness thorns toiling and sweating and struggling, piercing myself through with anxious thoughts… and never getting anywhere.  I also know by experience that when I cry unto the Lord in my troubles He shows me His Way.  And I repent of my foolishness.  Why do I torment myself with thoughts that pierce like thorns, when there is a Way, oh, so beautiful a Way, through my wilderness?  The God who loves me has prepared a Way for me, a Way of rest.  Yes, the frightening thorns of circumstance may still be there, but I am walking through them on a raised Way—who at one and the same time is my destination—Jesus Christ Himself.

A Highway Shall Be There

I mentioned a while ago that God has given me some openings concerning the realm of the Spirit that is before us.  Perhaps these openings are not exactly new, but when the Spirit of the Lord breathes life into the Scriptures there is an opening of the understanding that is very precious; there is a sense of newness of life about what we are reading.  It is fresh, we have a distinct impression that this is what God is saying, this is what He is doing, this is what is before us.

By that (what is before us) I don’t mean that we haven’t already experienced this in a measure.  But I know that there is much much more before us.

And so I mentioned that this realm of the Spirit is both a Place, and a Way.  There is a Pathway, and a Place… a Life, a walk in the Spirit, that oh… if I could only dance… I mean, dance the way the poet danced when he said, “Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings…”  Oh how duped we have been, we Christians, of our heritage in Christ, the realm of the Spirit, of the heavenlies.   Oh, how we have been blinded, we settle for earthly things when we have before us a vast heritage in the Spirit, the heritage of the New Creation man, the Israel of God, who walks not according to the rules and regulations of law, but according to a New Rule—the rule of new creation Life.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

One of the wonderful promises of the New Covenant is that God will make a way where there is no way—a way through the wilderness, a way where there has been nothing but desert and wilderness.  Are you there?  Don’t be discouraged, so am I.  But let us lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen our feeble knees: there is a Way here!

Now, in the typology of Scripture, the wilderness is the wasteland of this world caused by the sin of Adam.  Spiritually speaking, this whole world is a desert, an unfriendly and uninhabitable wilderness.  Thorns and thistles grow everywhere; venomous creatures abound; water is scarce, and when we get closer to things that excited us and lifted our hopes when we saw them in the distance, we discover them to be just another deceiving mirage.

But this is what has become of the old creation under the curse.  I am aware these days, as are many others, that the wilderness of this world has intensified, has become even more difficult, not just in the big wide world out there but in our own circumstances.  Sin abounds, and so troubles are greater, problems are more severe.  How wonderful to discover, then, that God promises a Way through this wilderness!  Yes, right there in the desert, right there in the wilderness, right in the midst of those terrible and difficult circumstances of ours—those impossible circumstances—there is a Way.

We find this theme over and over in our Bible, especially in Isaiah, where in Chapter 35 he introduces us to a certain Highway that leads to Zion.  Where is this highway found?

And an highway shall be there

That, is, there in the wilderness.  Isaiah has been talking of this terrible wilderness place, “the wilderness and the solitary place,” and he prophesies that there “the lame man shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.”

Water!  And not just a brackish puddle of it!

And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons (or, jackals) where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.

Water!  Water where there had been no water—living water, the Water Jesus spoke of when He promised the River of the Spirit.  And suddenly the desert is rejoicing, and the wilderness is blossoming as a rose.

And what else is here?

And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

Notice the intermingling of these two things in this chapter—the Water, and the Way.  For it is the Way of the Spirit that Isaiah is prophesying of.  He calls it the Way of Holiness, which the unclean cannot walk in.  But reading between the lines, I am sure we detect here that those who walk in this Way discover in it a power that cleanses them and keeps them clean.

Again, where is this highway?  Right there in the wilderness!  And the thought seems to be that even the most foolish of us can walk in this pathway without erring.  Once we have confessed what fools we have been and how terribly we have erred in going our own way and doing our own thing in trying to resolve our difficulties and make a life for ourselves, we discover God has a Way that accomplishes the impossible… if we will just give ourselves to walking in this Way.

I am talking to us Christians.  If we are born again, born of the Spirit, how foolish of us to try to deal with our difficult circumstances with our own resources and wisdom.  How foolish of us to try to resolve our problems with carnal means, to begin in the Spirit and hope to conclude things in the flesh.  God says the answer, the only answer, lies in walking in this Way, the Way of the Spirit.  If we are born of the Spirit we must take the plunge, we must give ourselves to walking in the Spirit in all we say and do.  What have we got to lose?  Our own ways haven’t worked, have they?

And the promise is that:

No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there.

I find this a fascinating verse.  There is a Pathway that… as you and I walk in this Pathway, no lion can touch us.  Lions simply cannot go up on this Pathway, they know nothing about it.  Our adversary the Devil who walketh about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour… as long as we abide in this Pathway he cannot touch us.  He doesn’t even know where we are.

What is this Highway, this Way?  It’s the Way of the Spirit, and it’s right there in the midst of our terrible wilderness, the only way through our difficult circumstances.  It’s there, beloved, God promises that it is there.  And He promises that “the redeemed shall walk there:

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

The Man Who Would Not Let Go Of God

This blog entry is about twice the usual length (as is the title).  And since it’s very meaningful to me, I hope A Mending Feast readers will read it when they can give it meaningful time.

In a time of prayer at the beginning of the year I felt that 2013 would be a time of seeking for me.  And so it has proven thus far.  As I mentioned last time, I spent some weeks fasting recently.  It came about when I asked some friends to join me in fasting and prayer for a day or two.  It was an encouraging time.  Then a few days later one of the friends mentioned to me that he had it on his heart to enter into a longer fast.  He felt it was an “invitation from the Lord,” and invited me to join him and his wife.  I was on.  We patterned it after Daniel’s fast—eating no “pleasant food,” eating very simply, and just enough to maintain strength.

I am not trying to draw attention to what we did, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way.  But this is a difficult and very critical hour, and I want to encourage us all to be seeking God earnestly.  We need Him so desperately, yet we get busy with our earthly lives, and somehow He ends up on the back burner.  That’s a mistake always; in this hour it’s a great mistake.

Personally I have lost my appetite for the earthly life.  We’re only mortal once, and to waste this brief moment of life on ourselves is the greatest of all loss.  Jesus told His disciples many times that those who seek to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives for His sake will find them.  It’s His invitation to us to walk in the way of the cross with Him—this way of death that He made the way of Life.  In my case I don’t know that I have too many grains of sand left in my hourglass, and it’s not very appealing to me to just idle away my precious days enjoying this earthly life and watching the grains of sand run out.  I don’t want to waste my life!  I am determined to spend my mortal life (the only one I get) on Jesus.  So I will continue to take up my cross and follow along with Jesus.  He promises me that this is the Way that leads to God.  And I want God!  And need Him desperately—not just for myself but for others.  So my face is set.  I am not turning back.  I am not giving up.

And during my fast I received a clear confirmation from the Lord that He Himself is saying this very thing to me: that yes, these are difficult days, very difficult.  You’re in the midst of troubles… with more and greater on the way.  Yet at times it seems like your God has hidden Himself, or is very far away.  But don’t give up.  Don’t give up.

Here’s how it came to me.  I found myself dwelling on the story of Jacob.  Jacob, our Bible tells us, was after something even in the womb of his mother.  She (Rebecca) would find herself holding her belly alarmed at what was going on—all that kicking and punching.  She sought God about it and received a prophetic word (Gen. 25.22).  She was about to give birth to twins, and the children were struggling with one another, wrestling in the womb.  Seems like they were positioning themselves.  Who would be the first out, and get the birthright, the blessing, the inheritance, the double portion?  Then when her time came and the firstborn was on his way out, the second son grabbed the firstborn by the heel as if to say, maybe you got out first but this is not over yet.  And so this is how he got his name—Jacob—“one who takes by the heel,” that is, “supplanter, conniver.”

Jacob didn’t make it out first, but what he did at birth was prophetic of his whole life.  As a young man he schemed to get the birthright from Esau, who, faint with hunger, sold it to him for a bowl of bean stew.  Then later when it was time for Isaac to pass on the blessing of the firstborn, Jacob schemed again (with his mother’s help) and deceived his father outright, and obtained the blessing reserved for Esau the firstborn.  Esau swore vengeance for this; he would get even someday; he would kill Jacob.  So Jacob leaves the land of his fathers for Padan-aram, where later on we find him wrestling continually with Laban, his conniving, deceiving father-in-law.  And after toiling many years for a wife and ending up with two wives (actually four) he is on his way back to Canaan the land of his fathers with his family and his flocks and possessions when he hears that his brother Esau is on his way to meet him, and 400 men with him.

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed… (Gen. 32.7).

And he prays for God’s deliverance.

Oh, God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac… I am not worthy of the least of Thy mercies, and of all the truth (or, faithfulness) which Thou hast shewed unto Thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him…

Notice that Jacob prays desperately for God’s deliverance, and at the same time comes up with an elaborate scheme to deliver himself from the wrath of his brother Esau.  He sends droves of sheep and cattle on before him as a present for Esau.  Last of all he sends his family over the brook Jabbok, a tributary of the Jordan.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day (Gen. 32.24).

It doesn’t surprise us, does it, to find Jacob wrestling again.  But this time it was not just the day that broke.  By the time this wrestling match was over, by the time the sun arose, Jacob himself was a broken man.  He had wrestled with his brother in the womb.  All his life he had wrestled with men and circumstances.  And now he is wrestling with… he is not sure who he is wrestling with.

And this One says to him, “Let me go, for the day breaketh.”

But Jacob kept saying to Him, “I will not let thee go except Thou bless me.”  My, how tenacious this man is.  He simply will not give up.

And when the Angel of the Lord saw that He wasn’t getting anywhere with this man, that He prevailed not against him, He touched Jacob in the hollow of his thigh and crippled him.  That would put him down on the mat for the count, right?

But no, it was Jacob who won the match!   We are told it was Jacob who prevailed, who won (Gen. 32.28).  How did he win the match?  By being crippled, by being smitten in the place of his greatest strength, by being overcome by God.  He asked him, “What is thy name?”  Jacob responded—and light dawned—“Jacob.”  Ah, my name is Jacob—supplanter, wrestler, conniver, striver!  All my life I’ve been striving, conniving…

But God responded, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”

God gave this man a new name.  In the Bible, the name always signifies the nature, the character of a person, his prophetic destiny.  And so Jacob was as it were a new man now, a new creation.  Now he in turn asks a question. “Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name.”  But He answers, “Wherefore dost thou ask after My name?”  In other words, I think, Jacob, you know that now.

And He blessed him there.  And Jacob called the name of that place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

But from that day on this man limped.  He couldn’t even worship without leaning on his staff (Heb. 11.21).

Now… I said all that to say this.  I was finding my time of fasting very difficult.  I don’t know that I’ve had a more difficult time—not the fasting itself so much as, oh, it was so hard to get through to God in prayer.  And you start to get thoughts like… maybe I just don’t have what it takes.  Maybe I should just call it quits.  But as I dwelt on Jacob’s experiences, I went to a passage in Hosea I’ve never really understood.  I thought I’d just read it over anyway.  Suddenly it came clear to me.  Hosea says this:

The LORD hath a controversy with Judah, and will punish (that is, visit) Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will He recompense him.

Hosea is talking here of the divided kingdom of Judah and Israel, both of which had gone into great apostasy at the time.  And he warns them that God will deal with them according to their ways.  But suddenly right in the middle of this frightening pronouncement Hosea sets forth a great hope for these wayward disobedient people.  How does he do it?  He reminds them of their father Jacob.

He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength (or, in his manhood) he had power with (or, strove with) God:
Yea, he had power over (or, contended with) the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto Him: he found Him in Bethel, and there He spake with us;
Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is His memorial (Hos. 12.2-5).

Suddenly I realized that Hosea, while making no excuse for Jacob’s conniving ways… he is speaking very positively about this man.  There is something about this man, this supplanter, this striver, this wrestler, that God greatly loves.  For this is a man who sought God tenaciously, continually.  From the very womb he wanted God… and just would not give up.  Oh how that blesses the heart of God to see someone like that!  He loved Jacob!

But now in the next verse Hosea comes to his punch line:

Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.

And–this is what I said at the start–I heard Him speaking to me!  Wait on thy God continually!  Don’t quit!  Don’t give up!

Do we not hear him speaking to us, fellow Christian?  “There He spake with us.”  God, in the story of Jacob, is speaking to us, to you, to me.  And is saying… “Don’t give up!”  It’s a word we deeply need to hear in this hour when, just as in Hosea’s day and the people of God back then, the same thing applies to “the church,” the people of God in this day.  We are in a state of frightening apostasy, and God is surely going to visit us for our ways.  It’s a grievous time, and many are wondering if there is any hope.  God says yes, there is hope!  God says, turn thou to thy God!  There is hope!  Is there someone in your life who needs mercy?  A situation that calls for judgment (for justice)?  Keep mercy and judgment!  (Remembering that he shall have judgment without mercy who has shown no mercy, and that mercy rejoiceth over judgment, James 2.13.)  And seek Me, God urges, wait on Me continually the way your father Jacob did.  Don’t quit on Me!  Don’t give up!  You will not be disappointed!  You will be rewarded!  And so wait on Me expectantly!  Remember My Name—that I am the LORD of hosts, the LORD of all the resources and hosts of Heaven; I lack nothing you need in any situation you face, regardless of how dark or difficult the day!

It’s a word of tremendous encouragement for this our day.  It may be a day of great apostasy and great distress, and at times it’s hard to lay hold of God.  But God will hear the cry of those who turn to Him and wait on Him.  Continually.  He will not disappoint them.

…But now my own punch line—and this is the thing that broke me up when I realized the longing in my own heart.  Jacob had cried out, “I will not let You go unless you bless me!”  Was he thinking in terms of the prayers he desperately wanted answered?  No doubt he was, he was in great distress and desperately needed answer to prayer.  But was there Something Else in that cry, something that he longed for all through the years of his toil and troubles and that now welled up in him and would not be turned away?  “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me,” he cried, the tears streaming down his cheeks.  And yes, at long last, God answered this Jacob He loved so much.  And he ended up with far more than answered prayer, wonderful as that is.  Jacob ended up with… God Himself.

That’s the Blessing he received at Peniel.  God Himself.

And so with us, beloved.  Does it seem God is delaying answering your prayers, and mine?  Oh how I anguish at times over unanswered prayer.  But God is going to answer our prayers, beloved.  Your prayers.  My prayers.  But when He does… we are going to end up with not just answered prayer.  We are going to end up with…  God.  As  you and I continue our asking, our seeking, our knocking, our wrestling, our striving… as we persevere and don’t give up, we are going to end up with… God Himself.

I realize we have Him now.  But so did Jacob before Peniel.  God had promised him way back at Bethel that He would not leave him till He had done what He had spoken to him of (Gen. 28.15).  But somehow all through the years there was still Something missing, and it was not till Peniel that he found that Something.  At Peniel he met this God who had been with him all through the years face to face.  And as he passed over Peniel the sun rose upon him.  It was a new day for this new man.  And he walked into it halting (limping) on this thigh.  He walked differently now.

I think we scarcely comprehend what this means to any great extent yet.  But we are going to discover what it means in our own Peniel, and as a result of the wrestling and crippling of the cross we too are going to walk differently… are going to walk with God Himself in a Pathway more wondrous and beautiful than anything we could ever dream or imagine.

More next time.

%d bloggers like this: