BEAUTY FOR ASHES PART I
THE FAMILY OF GOD
George H. Warnock
First Printing: December 1985
Second Printing: May 1987
Third Printing: December 1990 (U S A)
Fourth Printing: May 1994 (U S A)
Fifth Printing: February 1995 (Canada)
D I V I S I O N S I N C O N T E N T SPreface INTRODUCTION Ishmael, Child Of The Flesh The Process The Fullness Of God BEAUTY FOR ASHES--I--THE FAMILY OF GOD Keep The Vision High! The High Calling The Family Of Jacob First, Bethel God's Declarations First Bethel... Then Peniel God Of Jacob! A Family Of Many Brothers A Sign That Deliverance Is At Hand Jacob's Happy Family In Canaan A Divided Heart The Unveiling Of The Human Heart The Vision Tarries Prisoners Of The Lord The King's Prisoners Pharaoh's Dreams A Pure Ministry Is To Come Forth God's Perspective The Stage Is Set This Is Going To Take A Famine Joseph The Stranger The First Confrontation Simeon, In Captivity The Second Confrontation The Family Feasts Together Another Test For The Sons Of Jacob The Hour Of Repentance Draws Nigh Why God Refrains Himself The Commitment Of Praise The Altar Of Incense The Unveiling Of Joseph The Healing Virtue Of Forgiveness Manasseh And Ephraim There Is Therefore No Condemnation
In these series of writings we hope to confirm in the hearts of Gods people various aspects of His work in them relative to HIS PURPOSES and HIS WAYS. We need to have a clear understanding of HIS PURPOSES if we are to pursue the Vision of God, and seek to follow on to know HIS WAYS. And then as we follow in HIS WAYS we are going to be greatly perplexed if we do not know that His thoughts and His ways are as far beyond ours, as are the heavens above the earth.
It is an hour of great distress and perplexity among Gods people. It is our hope that this, and future writings on this theme, will do much to enhance and clarify the Vision of God that He has put within His people, as well as to encourage them to know that His way is right, perplexing and disturbing as it may seem to be.
Part I, "The Family of God," is the first of this series; and if you are not real familiar with the story of Jacobs family, we recommend that you read Genesis 35 to 50 before you continue with this reading.
Once again we would encourage Gods people to know that His Word is intended to be our Daily Bread, and not merely something to replenish our storehouse of knowledge. Read His Word... and other writings that you feel God has put in your hands to read with this thought in mind. For it is only the broken Bread of the living Word that can nourish us in the ways of the Lord.
-George H. Warnock
I am confident the time is at hand when our Lord will arise in the midst of the Church with eyes as a flame of fire, with feet as of polished brass, with a sharp twoedged sword proceeding out of His mouth... to cleanse and purge and prepare His people for His Appearing.
l am confident that any ministry in this hour that does not hear what this One is saying, and does not minister what this One is ministering, will be heaping up wood, hay, and stubble for the furnaces of God.
I am confident that there is a people in the land whom God is preparing, disciplining, and refining... who are going to minister in this hour out of the heart of God; and who, because of this, will work and minister in harmony with Him and with one another, as God sends His fire into the midst of the Church to accomplish His cleansing and purifying work.
We have come to the end; and no longer can we merely prophecy about end-time events, and teach end-time truths. We must begin to minister in union with the End-Time Lord.
Is He not the One who is the Same yesterday, and today, and forever? Ah Yes He is! But He has a special End-Time Name, and that Name is the OMEGA... which is the last letter of the Greek alphabet. I know He is the Alpha, and He changes not. But in this hour He stands in our midst as the OMEGA. He is bringing to a conclusion. He is bringing to a consummation. He is finishing what He started. He is completing the Building, for which He has laid the foundation. He is about to gather the Harvest, for which He planted the Seed. He will reconcile and join together in harmony the Family of God, for which He sent His Son to be the "firstborn among many brethren." He will bring forth the LOAF in His people, even as He was the Manna that came down from Heaven. He will effectually join His beloved ones unto Himself in one BODY, even as He was the BODY through which the Father expressed Himself in the earth many centuries ago.
The Vision is high, and we must keep it high. Man has obscured the Vision, because it seems too high for attainment. But in reality it is because man does not want to go Gods way, and yield himself as clay in the hands of the Potter. For this is Gods work... this is Gods creation.., it is not the work of man.
God is going to do what He said. But He is going to do it in a manner far different from, and far beyond, what any of us have imagined. He is going to bring to desolation everything, every church structure, every planting, every gathering together in His Name, every ministry.., everything that is NOT THE PRODUCT, that is NOT THE FRUIT OF HIS OWN SPIRIT EXERCISING HIS LORDSHIP IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE.
And then out of the ashes of all this desolation He will bring forth the very Beauty of the Lord!
And so I can think of no better title for this series of messages that I feel the Lord has laid on my heart, than this beautiful phrase from the prophet Isaiah, where God promised He would give His people "BEAUTY FOR ASHES."
Our hope is that we might rekindle the vision in the hearts of Gods people, and make it clear and plain... lest in the face of all the disappointment and disillusionment that has overtaken the people of God they begin to take the course that has been so tempting to take: either to forsake the Vision entirely, or to so dilute it with human reasoning and manipulation that there is really nothing left but a vision for some humanly devised project for promoting programs of various kinds, or amassing large congregations of people together in one building, under the guise of gathering together the Body of Christ in "the unity of the Spirit." In so many, many cases the Spirit of God is left completely out of the picture.
Invariably this seems to happen when God comes on the scene and makes His way known. Call it a vision, a revelation, a promise, or whatever. God may well have given it. But as we wait for it to come to pass a weariness sets in, a certain sense of perplexity, of disappointment, of frustration. Then little by little we find some strong leader who presumptuously begins to tackle the problem with his own wisdom and understanding. All in the name of "faith," of course. All in the name of "Christ." All in the name of "edifying the Body of Christ." And so there comes into being another church structure, another system, another outreach, another plan for accomplishing what God would accomplish in and through His own Spirit in the earth. And God gets the credit (though I should really say "the blame") for the new machinery that has come into being for the purpose of fulfilling the Vision of God.
Of course, every man has to "prove his own work," and this is not a wholesale condemnation of all that goes on in the Name of Christ. But this seems to be the general pattern; and for a season God seems to go along with it (if you understand what I mean). He knows the course that man will take, and He is not quick to abandon them because of their failure, or their lack of understanding. He just says nothing, and goes along with them. He does so in His great wisdom and love. To stop them short in their tracks would only frustrate them further (if they are determined to go their own way)... so God lets them do it. "God you said you wanted this... now I am trying to bring it into being... why do You hinder me?" So He usually just goes along... and blesses... for a season.
It doesnt mean He has approved what man is doing... or that He has changed His mind about anything. And it doesnt mean that He is going to incorporate mans puny efforts into the grand scheme and design of His own purpose. It is simply a case. of the God of all wisdom and knowledge giving man the opportunity to do what He knows He alone can do; and then when man has become aware of his own failures, and the futility of his own works... God Himself comes on the scene... and in the background of human failure and desolation, and in the fullness of time, He gives...
"Beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isa. 61:3).
It is really the story of the Old Covenant and the New. Not that there was inherently anything wrong with the righteous requirements of the Law. But when God gave it, man grasped it in his own hands, and confidently cried, "All that the LORD hath said will we do..." You might even say that God enticed them into it. He offered it to them. Paul says, "The Law entered that the offence might abound" (Rom. 5:20). The thought seems to be it "crept in unawares." One translation reads, "The law slipped in..."
God knew it would. It was never part of His eternal purpose for the Church; but it would have a temporary purpose: namely, to "make sin exceeding sinful"... and to "shut up all men unto disobedience"... to imprison all men in one prison-house of sin and disobedience, that one day the Keeper of the prison might walk in and pronounce the message of free Grace: "If you realize now that you are in prison... if you know for a certainty that you are helpless and undone, and utterly hopeless before God, you may go free... I open the prison-door, and set you free, by the blood of My Cross."
And so this matter of justification by faith has become an established truth in the Church ever since the Reformation; and many congregations throughout the land rejoice in the fact that they are "not under the law, but under grace." But this whole matter goes much deeper than having the right theology; and the fact remains that most congregations of Gods people are living under Law, though loudly boasting of their deliverance from it. For the Scriptures make it plain that "IF YE BE LED OF THE SPIRIT, ye are not under the law" (Gal. 5:18). Only the ministration of the Spirit of God in our midst can deliver us from Law. Only as we "walk in the Spirit" are we really free from the Law.
All we have to do is to take a glance across the scene of Christendom, and what do we find? All kinds of laws and by-laws for running the Church. Elders and deacons and pastors and church workers of every kind are ELECTED by the popular vote of the people. It would be too tedious a matter, and too devastating to carnal ambition, to seek God so earnestly that the Spirit of God might come forth and say, "Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them," as He did in the early Church. (See Acts 13:2.) Who needs that in this day and hour? It is much easier and more practical to have a missionary program of our own, and send out the ones we think are qualified for the task.
We could go on and on in this; but we are just illustrating the fact that Gods people as a whole continue to function according to LAW, human LAW... whether it be the Law of Moses, or their own. They have a certain organizational procedure, and all the while they boast they are "free from the Law."
Ishmael, Child Of The Flesh
Of course, if God were to come forth in our midst and say, "Now I want you to set apart this young couple for a special work for Me..." we would perhaps be quite prepared to submit to His choice, But if we wait and wait for Him to do it, and He remains silent in the matter, obviously we have to do something about it ourselves. (Of course, we are not suggesting that the Antioch experience is to be the formula for the Church. We are only emphasizing that if and when the Spirit of God is Lord in our midst, He will indicate His will and His way for the people of God.)
And so we have the story of Ishmael repeated over and over again in our various churches and fellowships that abound in the land.
"We have the Word we have His promises... its up to you and me to get in there and make it work..."
And so the "Promise" that God gives us as a Word to embrace and cherish and hold, a promise that we must guard and nurture in our spirits, until it becomes a living and "pregnant" Word within us... we take it rather as a challenge to act upon, in the name of faith, in the name of Christian zeal, only to end up in frustration.
And God seems to go along with it for a season. So long, in fact, that we finally are able to convince ourselves that God DID use our plans after all.
And so Ishmael grows up in the household of Sarah and Abraham, as the beloved son that God had promised. God does not whisper in Abrahams ear the day Ishmael is born, "Now look, Abraham... Ishmael is your son, and I will bless him... but he is not really the heir that I promised you." As a result Abraham comes to consider Gods silence to be His consent and approval... this year, and next, and next. Time rolls along, and Ishmael becomes the beloved of Abrahams heart.
We have been accused of setting the Vision too high... too high for people to grasp. If only we could convince the people of God that the Vision is much higher than we have ever taught or expressed... and that it is not something for them to "grasp," but to nurture in their hearts until by the Light of His countenance we are "changed into the same image." For though the Vision might be spoken of in many ways (as we anticipate doing in this series of writings)... in the final analysis the Vision is NOTHING LESS THAN THE VISION OF HIS OWN GLORY AND PRESENCE, coming to abide in the House of God.
Then why do we not stop right here, and leave it at that? Because it is the Vision of Him... and there are so many facets of His Being, so many rays of His glory, so many aspects of His beauty, so many unfoldings of His secrets, that unless we see Him in the full expression of His Being we are not really seeing Him AS HE IS. And God forbid that we should, in this writing or in any other, become so taken up with the chemistry of the living Word that we rejoice in our scientific knowledge of spiritual things, and fail to eat of Him who is the living bread sent down from Heaven for the life of the world. We must not take our place at the table of the Lord as a scientist: able to clearly analyze the food that is on the table, and know for a certainty that there is carbon in this, and sulphur in that... and hydrogen in that over there... all the while being totally accurate, but NOT PARTAKING OF THE LIVING TRUTH and allowing it to bring life and health and strength to our spiritual man.
God waits about thirteen years, and then He comes on the scene and reveals Himself afresh to Abraham, and announces: "This shall not be the heir... Sarah shall have a son..." Abrahams immediate response is one of surprise, and frustration, as if to say, "Impossible, Lord. But we have Ishmael already... Why not Ishmael Lord?"
We see an awful lot of the Ishmael in the Church today... in church structures and programs, and in the individual lives of Gods people. Not away out there in the apostate church... but in the midst of the anointed people, the people of God who profess to have the Spirit and to know His ways. God continues to bless, and Gods blessing is taken as a sign of His approval. But in the midst of it all there is the Abraham people of God, who are aware that God is coming on the scene... and they are hearing Him announce as He did to Abraham and Sarah: "My covenant will I establish with Isaac..."
In other words, God is bringing us back to the clear Vision that He announced in the Word; and we are going to have to forsake our own initiatives and all the schemes that we have devised to bring forth the true Body of Christ in the earth. For instance...
"God wants His people to be ONE. Just forget your differences and come together, and worship with us... forget your doctrines, they only divide the Body of Christ, and they dont really matter all that much... just praise and worship together with us, and learn to love one another..."
And so we have a very sentimental display of what they call love and unity, and a systematized form of worship and praise, something you just do, something you just perform, something you even do in the flesh if need be, just as long as you do it.
Or we have a more practical, a more structured way of doing it...
"We have true leadership in our church. We have the apostolic and prophetic order established by God. We are authorized to establish the church on its proper foundation. Come under this covering, get on this sure foundation... and you will come into true relationship with the Body of Christ..." And so, acting under the delusion that because God did something wonderful away back there in history, whether it be so many centuries ago or so many years ago... and because they have continued on in that particular "movement" in an unbroken line of succession, therefore, it just must be RIGHT to try to continue and perpetuate what God started. The Spirit of God may have left the whole thing centuries ago... or even just a few years ago, as the case may be... but because God started it we are supposed to try to perpetuate it.
God help us to learn the lesson of Eli, of Saul, of Bethel, of Jerusalem, of Rome, of Constantinople... and we could go on and on in this; places where Gods glory once rested in power and authority, but which have long since ceased to be anything more than an empty shell, just a memory of what HAS BEEN. Hear what God has to say about Bethel, the House of God, the place of Gods visitation to His chosen Jacob... but which God forsook because the people had gone into apostasy and idolatry:
"For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, SEEK YE ME, and ye shall live: but SEEK NOT BETHEL, for... BETHEL SHALL COME TO NOUGHT. SEEK THE LORD, and ye shall live" (Amos 5:4-6).
God help His people to understand that places, things, gifts, enablements, ministries, men of God, movements, whatever He might have anointed and used for His glory, THESE ARE NOT TO BE HELD IN VENERATION BY GODS PEOPLE; and that for their day and hour they are to be received and honored only as channels of His grace to LEAD HIS PEOPLE INTO RELATIONSHIP WITH HIMSELF. Then having served their purpose, God removes them from the scene, that He Himself might have all the glory.
Let us just summarize briefly what we have been saying: the Truth, the Vision, the Promise these come to us by revelation of the Spirit.
We accept it, embrace it, joy and delight in it... and wait and wait for God to bring us into it.
Then comes a certain sense of weariness and disappointment, and we discover we cant seem to get God to hurry along with His plans.
Human zeal enters... and we convince ourselves (or others will convince us) that the Promise is not really quite as unreachable as we thought... it is there in our power to fulfill... just take Hagar, and it will work.
Sure enough, it works! There is conception, and birth, and the growing of a young man unto maturity!
And God in silence says nothing... until His appointed hour. Then He comes on the scene, and says, "No! Not this...!"
"This one that I am bringing forth will not be by human engineering. Nor shall it be partly human and partly by my Spirit." (You know, "Do your part and God will do His.., start out in the flesh and somewhere God will enter the picture and takeover ...")
God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isa. 55:8).
God says, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).
God says, "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3). Notice where we are to begin, and where we are to end, "In the Spirit."
God says, if you are not "led of the Spirit" you are "under law" (Gal. 5:18).
God says He is looking for a people who will "worship Him in SPIRIT and in TRUTH" (Jn.4:23).
God grant that the Abraham people of this hour will be prepared to forsake their many Ishmaels that the true Isaac of Gods promise might come forth. And let us remember that it is Sarah, the barren woman, who will bring this to birth. Let Hagar despise her mistress in her eyes, because of her present fruitfulness. But the barren and utterly hopeless people of God are going to LAUGH in that day, when Isaac is born ("Isaac" means "laughter")... and it will not be the giddy laugh of Hagar, but the laugh of victory and triumph, and a rejoicing in the faithfulness of God who beheld the low estate of the barren and fruitless people, who found GRACE in His sight because of their broken and contrite spirit. We are considered to be lazy and slothful if we do not get excited about the many outreaches and programs we find in the Church for the building up of the Body of Christ. God says the slothful man is the man who does not learn PATIENCE: "That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb. 6:12). And in the immediate context, it is Abraham and Sarah that God is talking about.
Those who have learned a measure of Patience in their lives know that it takes more spiritual exercise and striving to wait before God until you know His guidance and direction, than it does to come up with a good plan and program of your own. It takes a far greater degree of obedience to discover what God is requiring, and to do what God would have us do, than it does to follow along in some humanly devised and well-meaning program that is tangible, and workable, and has much to show for it in the natural.
The Fullness Of God
There are many aspects of the great work that God is doing in the earth, and in this series of writings we want to explore and examine some of them. In each case we want to show how God is revealing the glory and majesty of His Being in a different light, in a different way. How else shall we know the "fullness" of His purposes, except as we see the shining forth of His glory in its many divergent colors?
Paul speaks of the "manifold wisdom of God"... or "the many-sided aspects of Gods wisdom." God forbid that we should depart from the simplicity of the Gospel, from the simplicity of knowing Christ. But let us not glibbly say, "O I know Jesus... I am not concerned about all these so called deeper truths... Jesus is enough for me."
Yes, Jesus is all we want.., all we need. But the Jesus that most Christians have is very small, very weak, very helpless. God help us to know that we are not going to really know Him, we are not going to really see Him, we are not really going to appreciate the glory of His Being... until He comes to take up His habitation in His Temple, His Body, His Family that is in the earth, and then in and through them reveals the very "fullness" of His Being.
Let not the Vision that God has given concerning His people be marred by the excitement that erupts in the Church when some great or mighty miracle is performed. God is certainly performing miracles, and He will continue to do signs and wonders in and through His people that are in the earth. But all this is nothing compared to the SIGN that His people are to BECOME when God has finished the work that He started, and made HIS PEOPLE TO BE SIGNS to be wondered at by the nations of the earth: "Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for SIGNS and for WONDERS in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion" (Isa. 8:18).
BEAUTY FOR ASHES--I--THE FAMILY OF GOD
God has planned and ordained that there shall be a full and complete expression of the living Christ in His family that is in the earth. We dare not lower Gods standard, or dilute the revelation of the Spirit with human opinions or methods, in order to make it "workable." This continues to go on. But in the end God lays it all aside, and brings forth that HOLY THING from His own creative hand.
What do we mean by the "fullness of God," or the "fullness of Christ" being revealed in and through His people? The Greek word is "pleroma" and means a "completeness," that state where there is "nothing lacking." In no place are the people of God to fall short of the glory and beauty of Christ. God is going to "complete" and bring to a glorious conclusion, all that He has purposed in His beloved people.
Now we know that the work of Redemption was completed when Jesus was here on earth, as far as His earthly ministry was concerned. He said in His great high-priestly prayer to the Father, "I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do," and we hear Him saying in His dying moments on the Cross, "IT IS FINISHED." His work on earth was FINISHED!
But there was a great work for Him to do in the heavens, and this has largely been lost sight of by Gods people. They somehow have the notion that He is filling in time until He can come back to earth and set up an earthly kingdom. God help His people to believe Him when He says that His Son is NOW reigning in Zion, and will continue to do so until all enemies are subdued under His feet (Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25, etc.).
He went to Heaven to set up His Kingdom; and He NOW rules and reigns from a heavenly throne, as both KING and PRIEST, "as a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true Tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man" (Heb. 8:2). His coming back is not to set up a Kingdom, but to complete the work which He started when He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high... to gather in the Harvest, to judge and consume the chaff and the tares, and to give to every man according to His works.
For almost two thousand years He has been ministering, and working, and reigning from Zion, the City of God; bringing to nought the devices of men, overthrowing, rooting up, tearing down... as well as building and planting. This work is not finished yet, but it is going to be. And once again the cry will ring forth (not from the Gross this time, but from the heavens) "IT IS FINISHED." (See Rev. 10:7.) The mystery of God is going to be "finished." Whatever God has planned and purposed for His people is going to be completed. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Author, as well as the "Finisher" of our faith.
Now just where, and at what point in the Book of Revelation God completes His work in the Church is not our present concern. But we do want to emphasize that the people of God are in reality the "Finished Work" that God has in mind. We, His people, are the crowning work of His creation. "We are His workmanship..." as the apostle said (Eph. 2:10). Another translation reads this way, "We are His HANDIWORK." We are to be the very crowning glory of His creative power and majesty!
Paul says, "The Church which is His body, the fullness (pleroma) of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23).
That the Lord Jesus was Himself the "fullness of God" when here on earth, and NOW in the heavens is really no problem to the people of God. We know that "in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9); because "it pleased the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell" (Col. 1:19). And we know that it applies to Him NOW in the full measure of kingly power and authority; and that it applied to Him when He was on earth in the beauty of His life, and nature, and character. It was the "glory of the Father" that shone forth in His earthly life and ministry (John 1:14). For the Son of God was the "express image" of the Father, the One who radiated the nature of the Father, lived by the life of the Father, spoke the words of the Father, and did the works of the Father. Truly God hath spoken "by His Son," or more literally, "IN SON"... the Son was HIMSELF, IN FLESH, the SPOKEN EXPRESSION OF THE FATHER (Heb. 1:1,2). We know it means that all virtues, all graces, all attributes that pertain to God are and were wrapped up in Christ. In no area does He fall short. He is that "fulness" that "completeness."
It is not to say that the totality of Gods Being dwells in one human body, the body of Jesus; but rather the perfection of it, the fulness of it, the complete expression of it. If it be patience and longsuffering, God has manifested these in all of His dealings with men from the beginning of time. But we see the "fulness" of it in Jesus. Power? We see the glory of His power everywhere in the Universe. But the "fulness" of it, the "completeness" of it, we find in Jesus. In Him resides the "full expression" of everything, every attribute, every grace, every virtue that is inherent in the heart of God. Most of us have no problem in this.
But now that Jesus has been glorified, He has taken on an EXTENSION of His Body, to include the Family of God; and now this EXTENDED body, this ENLARGED body is said to be the "fulness of Christ," or the full expression of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself... "The FULNESS OF HIM THAT FILLETH ALL IN ALL..."
Theology has a tendency to accept Truth as long as it does not become LIVING TRUTH... as long as it does not change the status quo... as long as it does not start some kind of revolution. But this statement about the Church being the FULL EXPRESSION OF CHRIST is not something for theologians to analyze, it is something for Gods people to appropriate. Listen to these words, which the apostle did not feel he could utter without cloaking the revelation in a prayer that Gods people might enter into it.
"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge..." (Eph. 3:14-19).
Perhaps there is nothing too controversial in what we have quoted. But we didnt finish it! In all that the apostle had been saying we feel the crescendo of heart yearning for more and more and still more of God until we are literally lost, immersed in the FULNESS OF GOD HIMSELF... May we finish reading this wonderful prayer...
"And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with (or UNTO) all THE FULNESS OF GOD!"
How dare we dilute the Truth concerning the Body of Christ to the level of human emotion, and settle for this sentimental idea of everybody getting together, patting one another on the back, and learning to love them and get along!
Only by the Spirit of God are we going to see in some faint measure the burden of Gods heart for His people, and the yearning that overwhelmed the heart of the apostle, as he contemplated the glory that God had in store for His family. And how clearly he revealed to us the step-by-step process that God would lead His family in, that they might explore and appropriate and be lost in this boundless realm of Divine LOVE! Oceans and fathomless depths of LOVE! Heights and depths of LOVE beyond all human ability to understand and comprehend! And the revelation of it all is couched in deep yearnings from the heart of God, and from the heart of the apostle, in a prayer that is born of the Spirit. For only God could enable a man to pray this way... that His Family on earth might be able to "apprehend" this glorious revelation and experience; for the word is much stronger than "comprehend." It means to RECEIVE and to RECEIVE FULLY the revelation of it until we are FILLED UNTO ALL THE FULLNESS OF God... until in and through Gods precious Family in the earth we might see, and the world might see, the full expression, the completion, the full display of the LOVE OF GOD.
Keep The Vision High!
Keep the Vision high; and as you do, do not yield to the temptation that it just must mean less than God says, otherwise we could never attain to it. For we are not talking about human achievement something you just try to do... we are talking about Divine enablement... And still more, we are talking about New Creation life and what God is able and willing to do with earthen vessels. We are talking about the might of the Potter, and the futility of the clay. You have a part, I know. But your part and mine is to be the CLAY in the hands of the POTTER. Your part and mine is to let Him mould, and form, and plan... as we simply yield, and let, and allow, and permit, and seek Him, and yearn after Him until He does it!
And God forbid that the pressing needs of mankind should deter us from the pathway we pursue, as we follow this Light; for may we recognize that this, and this alone, is Gods provision for every human need. And furthermore, as we walk in this pathway, and as we embrace this Vision, let us be assured that the needs of men are being met along the way according to the degree in which we are being conformed to the image of Christ, and not according to the degree in which we are conformed to the programs and the outreaches of religious zeal and enthusiasm. For it is only in the pursuit of the calling that God sets before us that we will become those channels of His grace and blessing that He desires us to be.
The High Calling
Let not the height of the Vision dismay you, or discourage you as you walk towards it. Remember this.., that the high calling is not too high for you, or God would not have called you to it. And take courage in the fact that the HIGH calling is really an UPWARD call, as the Greek word means, and as it is translated in some versions. It is an UPWARD call! This gives us hope and courage. If it were simply "high," I could very well look up and say, "It is just too high for me." I might gaze at the heights of the call, and flounder in discouragement. But it is an UPWARD call! God is saying to you and to me, "I am calling you UPWARD... I want you to go on... I want you to come higher... I do not want you to stay where you are, frustrated and perplexed and bewildered. The reason you abide in those realms is because you do not see the Vision. And if you see it you think I have set before you a goal that you know you can never reach. You do not understand that I only ask you to take one step at a time, and I only ask you to climb the steps with Me, as you take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me... for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
And so we take but one step at a time, and God is pleased. But we must not lag behind or yield to the enticements that come our way from time to time to take a shortcut. For there are many that appear to be good. You can get gifts of the Spirit freely. You might even develop for yourself a ministry, that may satisfy your heart for a season, and from which you might find a certain fulfillment. And certainly you need His gifts! But pray God that He will cause you to sit and learn from ministries that will lead you to His feet... ministries that will encourage you to take His yoke, and follow His ways. Gifts and ministries must not be considered to be in any sense ultimate.., they are but means to the end.., and the end pursuit of gift and ministry is to come to know Him, to be joined in like spirit unto others in the Family of God who are seeking to come to the "fullness" of Him.., so that together you might be able to comprehend, to apprehend, to receive fully... the living Christ, in the full expression of His Being.
And let us not be dismayed when in spite of all our noble efforts to climb higher we feel... we just know... that we are getting lower and lower. For as we travel this way we are going to discover, as men and women of all ages have discovered... that...
The way UP is DOWN...
The way OVER is UNDER...
The way to SUCCESS is through FAILURE...
The way to true PROSPERITY is through spiritual BANKRUPTCY...
The way to the true RICHES, is through POVERTY...
The way to VICTORY, is through DEFEAT...
The way to LIFE, is through DEATH.
And therefore, for the people of the UPWARD WAY God has set before us a very clear pattern and example:
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God (Or, He did not consider that equality with God was something He should grasp after): but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:5-9).
For the Son of God, the Captain of our Salvation, the Author and the Finisher of our faith... for Him the UPWARD CALL was one that brought Him lower, and lower, and lower.., even unto the death of the Cross.
And so it must be with you and me. God deliver us from all that striving we see today to excel... striving for highness, for exaltation, for greatness, for bigness... even among many who profess to know the "end-time" message, and who profess to be heirs of the "Kingdom." Let us make no mistake about it... the pathway of SONSHIP leads to none of these. It takes one lower, and lower, and still lower... in order that in the Spirit of Christ we might rise higher, .. and higher, and still higher...
The Family Of Jacob
In the family of Jacob we have a type... perhaps we should say a prototype... of the Family of God; and this is what we want to consider in this writing.
God has declared Himself to be "the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob..."
In Abraham God called a man whom He would discipline, and test, and try, until He had made of him a pattern of FAITH for all generations to come. He was to become "the father of all that believe," "the heir of the world," the one in whose Seed (remember God said SEED, not seeds, for the Seed is Christ--Gal. 3:16,29)... the one in whose SEED all nations of the world were to be blessed.
In Isaac we have the firstfruits... the firstborn son of Abrahams family... the hope, the promise, the earnest of the great Family of God that was yet to be born.
In Jacob we have the outworking of Gods dealings in the Family of God: first in Jacob himself, and then in his twelve sons. And in all this we have a clear picture and pattern of how God deals with His family by way of disciplining, teaching, chastising, frustrating, devastating... and yet in and through it all ordaining and preparing them for a glorious latter end.
All this, of course, is for our edification and encouragement, as we travel much the same pathway as they did, and experience the same frustrations, longings, disappointments, joys, and encouragements as they did.
As we become acquainted with the God of Abraham we learn obedience, faith, trust, and yet in the midst of it all, a certain unrest, a certain perplexity, a certain frustration. We embrace the promise and begin to walk in it, but the promise lingers unfulfilled. We pitch our altar, and know the presence of God, but not for long. We must move on, and on... to new altars, to new areas of commitment and dedication to God. New horizons open up before us. New frustrations beset us. All the while we are looking for something more real, something more permanent, something more lasting... only to find ourselves in the end as "strangers and pilgrims in the earth." Nothing fully satisfies, great and wonderful as it may be. There may arise from time to time the feeling, "Why cant we be satisfied like Lot... to find a well-watered plain somewhere in the land, and just settle down." Some of Gods righteous ones, like Lot, will do that; but we cant. The Vision holds us steady... the Vision of a "City which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God..."
Of course the Lord is faithful, and after patient endurance on Abrahams part, God fulfils the promise. Isaac comes forth, the true child of promise, and there is joy and laughter (as "Isaac" means)... laughter such as only Abraham and Sarah can understand and experience. Not the giddy joy and laughter of entertainers who go about promoting the laughter of the world in the midst of Gods people... but the laughter of true spiritual HOPE. There is "rejoicing in hope of the glory of God." There is a joy that is born out of tribulation, and patience... A joy that comes in the morning, after the night of weeping. There is still much work to be wrought out in the lives of Gods Family, but the hope, the Vision... will sustain and strengthen as God completes the work that He has begun.
And so we come to Jacob, in whom God would give us a pattern of the transforming work of His grace in the lives of His chosen ones. In Jacob God reveals the process whereby He would change the name of His chosen ones; for when God "names" His people, He names them according to the nature that they have, or the nature that is yet to be, And the changing of Jacobs name signifies the changing of his nature, of his whole way of life, until Jacob comes forth as ISRAEL, Israel the Prince of God, Israel the Overcomer.
Like Jacob, we too are born the beloved of God. Even before he was born God said, "Jacob have I loved..." In vain are we going to search out the heart of God in an attempt to discover WHY He loved us. In vain are we going to search out our own hearts, if perchance the reason for His love was prompted by something we discover within ourselves. So let us leave all this kind of searching aside. But we must know, if we are going to survive the tests, the frustrations, the trials, the temptations of life.., that in and through it all our Father God loves us, and for NO REASON that He has been pleased to reveal.
And yet, in spite of this love, and our awareness of it, it does not prevent us from striving to get it, or from striving to maintain it. And like Jacob we are going to discover that with every effort we make to get more and more of this spiritual life, the more frustrated we become. It takes time... and experience. But sooner or later we are to discover that to really find God we have to surrender all that we have acquired. I mean surrender all our spiritual blessings, all our spiritual enablements, all our spiritual gifts.
You see, God may entice us with gifts and blessings... for these gifts and blessings proceed from Him, and they indicate to you and me somewhat concerning His nature, His heart... and they are necessary for our spiritual growth. But God wants us to know that it is not sufficient merely to have certain of His blessings and His gifts residing within us... He wants to occupy the throne room of our heart completely, alone and by Himself.
No problem, of course.., as long as we can hold on to what we have until we can replace it with something better. "God, you give me more of Yourself, and Ill give you more of myself..." But God does not work that way. Were He to do so He would be allowing you to have the lordship that He the Jealous God requires for Himself. And so He will insist that we surrender to Him, before He will surrender to us. "Give Me everything, every natural endowment, every spiritual endowment.., every natural possession, every spiritual possession. Then I will give you MYSELF..." For God is a jealous God, and will not share His glory with another. He may share His blessings, all the while we are receiving comfort and satisfaction from other sources. But He will not share His glory, His abiding presence, His lordship with anything or anyone else.
The experience of Bethel is a wonderful experience. The word means "House of God"... and the revelation of the House of God, the Church of God, the Family of God, has been precious in our eyes. The vast majority of the Family of God have camped right there, and seemingly desire nothing more than the revelation of His glory at the House of God. After all, Jacob discovered Bethel to be "the gate of heaven." What more could we desire?
But to what had Jacob really attained? Really, all that was there was a heap of stones. What he had was a revelation, and it was good. "The House of God." "The Gate of Heaven." Angels of God were ascending and descending upon the heap of stones. But how few of us have noticed that GOD HIMSELF was still beyond his reach... that God was at the TOP of the ladder!
We are still very much at Bethel the place of the revelation of Gods purposes in His people. But we are still a heap of stones. God is working on those stones, I know. And He will continue to chisel, and shape, and fashion according to His will, until we become "living stones" and built together to form "a habitation of God in the Spirit."
There are many things that God says concerning His people as positive declarations. We are His Church. We are His Building. We are His Temple. We are Living Stones. And we could go on and on. But God help us not to fall into the deception of thinking that His declaration of what we are is sufficient, and thereby deny to ourselves the workings and dealings of God in our lives that will truly and effectually MAKE US TO BE what He DECLARES US TO BE.
When God appeared to Abram and announced, "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee" (Gen. 17:5), God was declaring His purpose. And as Abraham embraced Gods Word, his faith would grow and be strengthened in order that the promise might be fulfilled. Gods declaration of what he was, was sure and certain because God had declared it but it wasnt actually so as yet. The promised seed (Isaac) was not even born yet; and the actual fact of Abraham becoming the father of nations would be years, decades, centuries away.
Inherent in the changing of the NAME is the guarantee and the provision by God Himself that we cherish and embrace, in order that it might become actual and real in our lives. He calls His own Name upon us. He says we are holy; He says we are AS HE IS; He says we are His brethren; He says we are righteous; He says we are of His flesh, and of His bone; He says we are one with Him. As we embrace that He will MAKE US TO BE what He now DECLARES US TO BE.
First Bethel... Then Peniel
This is the order: Bethel, the House of God; and then Peniel, the Face of God!
The time had come for God to strip the striving, grasping Jacob of all that he had. And so on his return from Haran back to the land of promise, God was preparing him for that confrontation with Himself that would make him to be an OVERCOMER. Jacob finds himself alone, alone under the stars at Jabbock. He was facing what he thought was a revengeful Esau, and in fear he surrendered and forfeited everything he had. And now at the fords of Jabbock God confronted him face to face. The struggle lasted all through the night; for though we long for God, and earnestly pray that He will have His way with us... as He seeks to do so He finds it difficult to prevail against us.
How can mortal man make it difficult for God to subdue him? Simply because mortal man was nevertheless made in Gods image... and Gods dealings with man (especially His chosen ones) are mingled with great concerns that the image which man has lost may be found again. Gods sons are begotten, and not merely created like beasts of the field. They are begotten in the Fathers image and likeness. Therefore He desires a Father-son relationship, obedience, submission, friendship, fellowship. He has ten thousand times ten thousand of other creatures that do not bear His nature and likeness; and they do whatever God says. But His sons He has chosen from among the sons of men, and God would reproduce in them His own nature: by dealing with them as with sons, by discipline, by chastisement. His hand may be heavy upon them at times, but then He will restrain Himself.., that His disciplined ones might voluntarily and willingly draw closer to Him.
But at the breaking of the Day the Angel of God touches Jacob with the touch we all long for, all the while strenuously resisting His every attempt to reach us.
We must continue to ask the Lord to bring us to our Jabbock. Dr. Strong says the word "Jabbock" is from a word that means to "pour out" or to "empty." We often pray, "Lord, fill us..."
And it is true that God can give us many things, many blessings, with whatever degree of commitment we are able to give, But if we truly desire the "fullness of Him" there is only one way a complete pouring out and emptying of ourselves at the river Jabbock. It is only in giving Him all of us, that we can receive all of Him, He will not give up on us, because we are slow to yield. He will continue the confrontation, if our hearts are truly after Him, until He succeeds in giving us the final touch... the touch that cripples, the touch that leaves us lame, never to walk the same again. Jacob had received a "new name" consistent with the new nature and the new life that he was to live from that day forward. No longer "Jacob the supplanter," but "Israel, the prince of God."
But Jacob did not go forth from that experience declaring himself to be Gods man of power. When you hear of men who claim that title, or accept it... you just know that they have never seen the Face of God at Peniel, After that kind of experience, Gods Israels will limp their way along in the ways of God, forever halting on their thigh. Paul said, "Let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the brand-marks of the Lord Jesus." There might be a lot of boasting at Bethel, the House of God; but there will be none at Peniel, when one beholds the Face of God. Long after Jacobs glorious experience at Peniel we hear Jacob testifying before Pharaoh, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been..." (Gen. 47:9).
The positive testimony, the testimony of Gods overcoming ones, is this: that in me there dwelleth no good thing... that His strength is made perfect in my weakness that in and through every devastating experience we have known in life, God has been faithful to give Beauty for Ashes, the Oil of Joy for Mourning, and the Garment of Praise for the spirit of heaviness.
God Of Jacob!
God of Abraham! We can understand that, for Abraham was a man of faith, who walked in obedience before the Lord.
God of Isaac! We can understand that, for the Fear of God was upon him, and he too walked with God, with few deviations.
But the God of Jacob? What encouragement to you and me, who have known much perplexity and discouragement, and yet have discovered in and through it all that God was working in our hearts great longings and desires for Him, and for Himself alone. And to think that He puts His own Name upon us: "Israel, Prince of God... you have Power with God and with Men."
It is a Name we bear in our reproach. We do not FEEL that the Name is appropriate... but we must take it. Our hope can be in nothing else, but that we accept His Name upon our lives. In doing so we are actually inviting Him to have free rein in our lives, and to work His nature and character into our beings. His Name He would put upon our foreheads that we might have His heart, His mind, His thoughts... and that we might walk in His ways. The God of great power and might, condescends to put His Name upon the sons of men. But what kind of condescension is this that He would take OUR NAME, and ascribe it to Himself. Listen to this:
"This is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek thy face, O Jacob..." (Ps. 24:6). God takes the name of Jacob for Himself! For He takes our nature, our sickness, our problems, in order that we might take His Name, His nature, His strength, and His life. He becomes our "Jacob"... that we might become His "Israel"!
A Family Of Many Brothers
We are talking about the Family of God. God has a family. He has One Beloved Son, an only begotten. There is only One that is in this unique and special sense the Son of God. But God will not be content until He has a FAMILY like Him. Not because He is not satisfied with the only Son... but because the only begotten of the Father is so precious in His sight, and so delights His heart.., that He wants to have more like Him.
We get discouraged sometimes when we see the many faults and failures in the Family of God: the resentments, the pride, the jealousies, the hate, the conceit, the divisions, the striving for pre-eminence. Then we read of Gods requirement of us, that we walk in unity, and in love, and in truth, and in peace. And O the frustration that sets in as men try to bring this about in the Family of God. Of course, we have to lower the Vision of God to our human plane in order to make it work. We do not insist that the Family of God walks in total harmony and union with the Son of God and with one another. Obviously that is impossible. So we just encourage people to love one another, to be kind and forgiving, to forget their differences.., to try and get along as the happy Family of God. The various schemes that we have mentioned are brought into play... teachings of "submission" to authority and leadership, and the like; and with these methods we hope to alleviate the stress that we see as brother tries to co-exist with brother in the Body of Christ.
All well-intentioned, of course, and for a season it might seem to work. But surely we have had enough experience in Church life by now to know that sooner or later there is going to be a disruption... another division... another clash... and new congregations will be born out of the ashes of the old. Then there is a certain sense of satisfaction in the thought that the trouble-makers have left... now we can start building afresh, Or the "trouble-makers" that have left get to feeling... "We are going to go on with God, no matter what the others do"... and there is a new fellowship of come-outers.
All this has been very frustrating to behold; especially in the eyes of those who just know that they have the order for the New Testament Church. They just know that if Christians would get out of all these old systems and join them, they would grow in grace, and unto the stature of Christ!
"We have no problem in our fellowship," I have heard it said... "We have New Testament order and leadership. Our ministers work together in harmony. The people are taught to obey the leaders as they do that there is peace." Or, words to that effect.
Not to mention of course that if one or more of the corporate leadership disagrees they are dis-fellowshipped because of insubordination.
And not to mention that if the people leave from time to time it is because they are rebellious... or (and this is quoted frequently), "They went out from us, because they were not of us.., for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us
A Sign That Deliverance Is At Hand
But personally, in and through all the strife and the division and the separations that I see going on in churches and fellowships of various kinds I find real cause for hope and encouragement. I just know that God has a plan... a plan that Is much greater than any of our plans. I just know that God is working in the earth to bring about true reconciliation in the Family of God; and to bring into being the peace, and the unity, and the harmony that God is after. And I believe that Gods plan is even now being unveiled, and it is working; and the strife and perplexity and upheavals that we see going on about us, even amongst the dedicated and committed children of God, is an indication that the Day of Deliverance for the people of God is nigh at hand. Why do I say this?
Never was the nation of Israel closer to the day of deliverance from Egyptian bondage than the day that Aaron and Moses stood before Pharaoh and said, "Let my people go..." And yet the bondage, and the strife, and the turmoil in the people of God was never greater than it was in that hour. Furthermore, it got worse, and not better... right up until the night the children of Israel departed from Egypt!
Never had such frustration and division and distress overtaken the twelve disciples as in the day and hour when Jesus died on the Cross. And the little flock to whom God had promised the Kingdom was scattered far and wide on that dreadful day. Yet it was in that very hour that our Lord by His death and by His resurrection would gather them together in the unity and harmony of His Spirit.
THEIR TIME OF DESOLATION WAS BUT THE BIRTH-PANGS OF A NEW ORDER!
I believe it is so today. There is a lot of talk of unity, of coming together, of ecumenicism... whether it be out there in the apostate church or amongst Gods true people. And the more we see and hear of it, the more strife and turmoil are we caused to behold, IT IS BUT THE BIRTH-PANGS OF GODS NEW ORDER!
He is sifting, sifting, sifting, the hearts of men. God is not in the least interested in gathering together and joining together a carnal people, a people filled with their own ways, a people of contention and bitterness and strife. And when men in the Church think they can just brush all this under the carpet in the name of "love," or in the name of "submission" to authority, or in the name of maintaining "New Testament Church Order," God is quick to come on the scene, with eyes as a flame of fire, and to devastate and confound the devices of the carnal heart.
Jacobs Happy Family In Canaan
Moved upon by God to come back home, after spending some 20 years or more in Haran with his uncle Laban, Jacob returned with the blessing of God, and settled in the land of Canaan, the land of his fathers, the land that God had promised to give them for their inheritance. Of course, they continued on in the land as "pilgrims and strangers"... for the day of actually possessing their inheritance had not yet arrived.
God had been faithful to the striving, self-seeking Jacob all through the years of his exile; but now he is home with his family, his very happy family, and dwelling together in peace in the land of Promise. All living together in communal harmony, and blessing. All working together, and knowing happy times together, as the heirs of the blessing that God had promised their father Abraham.
But they were still but the stones that Jacob saw at Bethel many years before. The Family of God, yes; but not really builded together as the true Bethel, the House of God.
Let not Gods ministers continue on in their vain delusions any longer. We do not have the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace just because we can assemble together under one roof, and sing the same beautiful songs of Zion, and raise our hands together in praise and worship. It may all look very good to the undiscerning eye. And occasionally you will hear remarks like this, when there is a mixing of various congregations and fellowships: "Isnt it wonderful how God is bringing together the Body of Christ... look at this congregation... and all the different churches that are represented..."
Sooner or later they are to discover that there is another upheaval, another trial, another scattering, and great disillusionment sets in. "How long, O Lord," we ask, "Are these things to be?"
God lift the veil from our eyes that we might see: it was not a "division" that took place when suddenly the people of God were scattered; but the "division" was there long before they even assembled together in one congregation in the first place. It simply took these many months or years for the division to become unveiled.
A Divided Heart
Again, let us say, God is not in the least interested in His people trying to maintain a semblance of "unity"... if their hearts are divided. He is not in the least interested in joining flesh to flesh, carnality to carnality... and CALLING IT THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT. The "unity of the Spirit" means exactly that we are ONE WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD. We have come under His Lordship. He is in charge. He dictates the order and the worship and the praise of the people of God. He gives the direction in which we are to go as we assemble together in His Name. The members of the Body of Christ come together having sought the Lord earnestly... that they might not fail to contribute their portion for the edification of all: whether it be a Word, a Song, an Utterance... or whether it be to quietly sit there and pray for, and move in union with those whom God is using.
We could go on and on in this... and we all know very well that this type of gathering is practically unknown in the assembling together of the people of God. We are not talking about "the unity of the faith" which is still farther down the road, we are talking about the "unity of the Spirit" which is now within reach of the people of God, regardless of our present understanding of Truth, and of the mysteries of God. All we need to maintain the "unity of the Spirit" is a people who, regardless of their present understanding of truth, are committed, yielded, sold out to God, and are seeking Him with all their hearts. Their hearts are united unto Him, and therefore unto one another. And we are exhorted to maintain this kind of unity as God would lead us further and further... even unto "the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God."
But away with the notion that we can keep the unity of the Spirit just because we have His gifts and blessings... if the hearts of Gods people are set in their own ways, with hearts divided between God and themselves... a little area here for God, and the rest I will take care of myself. A heart for religion, and a heart for the world. A heart for the worship of God in Spirit and in Truth, and a heart for the idols of the heart.., those things that I just must have whether God is for it or against it. A heart for the beautiful songs of Zion, and a heart for the jazz and clanging cymbals of Rock-and-Roll... or perhaps a mixture of the two, using the words of Zion and the lyrics of Satan.
A divided heart means a divided life. And many divided hearts gathering together under one roof to worship God... means a divided fellowship. It may not appear that way right now. You can sing all the choruses about the Body of Christ and the happy Family of God. But sooner or later it will be manifest for what it is: a group of people with divided hearts, divided interests, divided hopes, divided desires... And then one day when something drastic happens and the flock is scattered we look about and blame this elder, or that deacon, or that pastor, and go about looking for a new board, and a new pastor... and start the same proceedings all over again.
In actual fact the "division" was there right from the start, but well glossed over, well covered up... until He with eyes as a flame of fire gazed upon them, and everything went up in smoke because of His searching, penetrating, consuming fire.
But God has a wonderful and a glorious solution to the whole problem; and we see it beautifully portrayed in the Family of Jacob.
The Unveiling Of The Human Heart
Jacob and his family were living together in Canaan, as one big happy family. But like the pile of stones upon which Jacob had laid his head many years before, they were not yet "living stones," shaped and fitted together, as the House of God. But this is what God had in mind, and God would yet bring it to pass.
If this is the day of the unveiling of Christ, and the joining together of the Body of Christ, it is also the day of the UNVEILING OF THE HUMAN HEART, and the manifestation of the hidden things of darkness that lie concealed in the hearts of Gods people.
What is it that begins to unfold the inherent hatred and dissension that lie concealed in the hearts of Jacobs sons? Nothing less than Jacobs special love for Joseph. Of course it does not seem fair that Jacob should prefer one son above another. But we want to emphasize in and throughout this whole episode Gods dealings with His own family.
Jesus said, "If any man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). Does God not love everybody? Yes, but there is a special love that flows out to the one who loves Him.., for the simple reason that "deep calleth unto deep." His love for us would draw forth from our hearts our love for Him. And if we respond to His love, and allow ourselves to LOVE Him... then there is a further response from His heart. Our love for Him releases the flow, And the mutual love between the Father and His sons will grow and grow and grow... until they LOVE, even as He loves...
But rest assured, when this kind of love relationship develops between you and your Lord, there is going to arise great opposition to it from those who love Him not. The reason is because Love and light are inseparable, and light cannot co-exist with Darkness. Therefore "men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Love brings to the light; and light exposes the evil that is there. Repentance washes away the evil; but if there is no repentance there is great opposition.
Why was Madame Guyon whom we read about persecuted so much? We can discover no other reason than the fact she loved God with an intense love...--so intense that it exposed the darkness and the evil of mens hearts. Why were Luther and the reformers persecuted and hunted and hounded, and many of their people tortured and burnt at the stake? Really, for no other reason than the fact that they loved God with all their hearts... loved Him more than the establishment... more than their Bethel, the House of God, that had become apostate and corrupt. Why did Cain slay Abel? Because "his own works were evil, and his brothers were righteous." And why did the religious leaders of the day slay Jesus, who was the full expression of God in the earth, and manifested the fullness of love and mercy and truth? Simply because the hearts of men were filled with hatred and iniquity, and the love of God that was revealed in Jesus exposed them.., and in pride of heart they refused to come to the Light for healing and cleansing.
Joseph, very innocently, but as a lover of the truth, would tell his father of the evil deeds of his brothers. This angered them. But more than this we are told that Jacob showed special love to Joseph, and this caused them to hate him more.
But not only had Jacob favored Joseph. God did too. God would give him dreams, dreams that had great spiritual meaning; and these served to aggravate the problem still further. Joseph had dreams of preeminence and of lordship. God gave them, so we cannot accuse Joseph of pride or bigotry. In child-like simplicity he told his dreams. But this would bring Joseph into still further trouble. God knew it would. But God had ordained a furnace of affliction for Joseph, and God knew how to take care of the situation.
"And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words" (Gen. 37:8).
You who have known Gods special favor and grace upon your life, learn to temper this with the realization that the grace and the favor He is showing now, is ordained of God to be a cushion to lessen the blow, and to make the devastation to be endurable, in the furnace of affliction that lies before you. As you become aware of this, it may be that God will provide the grace now to humble yourself before Him, and to seek Him more earnestly for grace in this hour, when you feel you need it less. For you need His grace exceedingly, if you find your heart and mind dwelling upon thoughts of Kingdom power and authority and rulership in the Kingdom of God that is about to be revealed!
Now what was God doing in Jacobs family? He was beginning to expose the evil of their hearts; and in bestowing love and favor towards Joseph He was simply manifesting the evil that was already there in the other brethren. All the while they were the happy family of Jacob, living in the beautiful land of Canaan. But they had divided hearts. Sooner or later there would be a confrontation. And it would come through Joseph the beloved one, and who was on a mission of kindness to his brethren, to see how they were getting along.
"Here comes this dreamer," they said, "Come let us slay him, and well see what will become of his dreams..."
But God was working in their lives, and sovereignly exercising control in the whole matter... and they could not slay Joseph.
We have to know in all our dealings with men of this world, and in all our experiences in life, that God is behind the scenes working all things together for good "to them that love God"- and all for His glory. But perish the thought that God causes the evil... that God put that hate and rebellion in the hearts of Jacobs sons, in order to banish Joseph into Egypt. God has put a hedge about His people, and thwarts the devices of the evil one on our behalf; and if He sees fit to lower the hedge here and there, as in the case of Job... it is because in His great love and wisdom He is going to frustrate the devices of the evil one, and bring great glory out of it all.
All the brothers were involved in the plot, but some of them had a greater degree of guilt than the others. To Reubens credit we have to say that he had planned to rescue Joseph from the pit, and send him back to his father. But when the other boys saw a caravan of merchantmen on their way to Egypt, they realized that perhaps they could derive a little gain in the matter, and they drew him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.
When iniquity abounds, there is no end to the expression of evil that lies inherent in the human heart. First, evil conversation... Then jealousy... Then hatred... Then conspiracy to kill... Then covetousness... Then lying and deception... All this was there in their heart, yet they seemed to be living in harmony, in communal blessing, as one big happy family, in the beautiful land of Canaan!
This was the experience of Jacobs sons. And when their father examines Josephs coat which the boys had taken from him, and dipped in the blood of a goat... Jacob is completely devastated. "It is my sons coat; an evil beast hath devoured him... I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning..." (Gen. 37:33,35).
But what was God doing at this time? God was preparing a man for the day and hour when He would RECONCILE THE FAMILY OF GOD, to one another, to Jacob, to Joseph, to God Himself.
If Gods people could only know this and understand... that the evil that is purposed against us can do us no harm whatsoever if we are walking in Gods way and doing His will! What a difference it would make in our relationship with God in that hour! If and when this happens, God help us to know that He is preparing us for the day and hour when we can come back to our brethren, and bring them into deliverance, For if we receive all this as from God, then we who are rejected are but released into the oceans of liberty and freedom; while those who are free to go their own willful way are actually weaving for themselves a net of great bondage.
Of course when things like this happen there may not be very much desire in our hearts to help our persecutors. There may even be thoughts of vengeance and retaliation. But let us be quick to discern the evil of our hearts in that day, lest the enemy succeeds in frustrating the good that God has designed in our lives because of the furnace of affliction. It may be hard to discern this, if you see Satan stoking the fires. But let us learn that Satan doesnt know everything... and it is quite apparent as we read the Scriptures that Satan rarely seems to know what he is doing when he afflicts the child of God.., he just does not understand the mystery of the Cross!
Joseph may have had very little love for his brethren as he cried and besought them earnestly for mercy. Anticipating the day and hour when he would be able to return to them and show them mercy and forgiveness... this was probably farthest from his thoughts. But it was in Gods thoughts. And when God was through with Joseph he would be able to love and forgive and show mercy and deliver the whole Family of God. But to fill this role, he must be prepared through hardship, and bitterness, and misunderstanding, and cruel bondage.
I know that there is the outpouring of Gods love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit within us; and we can experience this intermittently, as we know special seasons of Gods blessing in our lives. But Gods plan goes much deeper than this, and involves the very changing of our nature and character within, till LOVE is an inherent part of our being... and we "LOVE... even as He loved," and "show mercy" even as He showed mercy.
The Vision Tarries
What is our responsibility when the Vision tarries? Blame the Devil for his opposition to us? Or blame ourselves for our lack of initiative and aggressiveness? The prophet Habakkuk gives us the answer, the answer that God gave him in the hour of his own affliction:
"THOUGH IT TARRY, WAIT FOR IT..." (Hab. 2:3).
It seems like vain comfort in the hour of affliction, but this is Gods answer. The delay of the Vision only adds to the severity of the affliction. God knows this; but He also knows that the delay of the Vision will add to the character-building of the man who has the Vision.., if he will but WAIT FOR THE VISION TO BE FULFILLED.
To take the Vision in our own hands, and try to make it work, will only add to our problems. And so Gods chosen ones, Gods Josephs, are handicapped in the matter. So handicapped are they that they couldnt take things in their own hands even if they tried. It is a sort of a handicap-situation in which they themselves very innocently co-operated, so they cannot "blame" anyone but themselves. For as they earnestly sought the Lord in earlier days they always said, "Lord I want to go your way... all the way. Hinder any plan or device of my own that would hinder the full outworking of your purpose in my life. Dont let me find true fulfillment... dont let my ministry know any enlargement, except Lord, as you know that I am able to abide faithful in it, and have the power to overcome the temptations that invariably come to that one who is used of God. Release me to accomplish your works in the earth, but do not release me till you have accomplished that needful work in my own life..."
And because we prayed this way in the time of peace and safety, and without any pressure of circumstances... God is faithful in the hour when the pressure is released upon His people to close His ear, and refuse to hear their pleadings when they cry unto Him, "Lord, take me out of this ... I know I prayed that you would have control in all things, and I covenanted to go your way all the way.. .and I meant it... but Lord, I didnt think it would come to THIS... take me out of it..." But God does not hear. He did hear that other prayer of true dedication and commitment that you made in the time of peace and safety; and now that His hand of trial and testing is heavy upon you, He closes His ear so He will not hear the cry for release from your commitment.
O yes! He knows what you are saying. But if you really meant what you said back in those days when you gave Him your all--He will not let the extreme pressures of the moment change His mind concerning you. He loves you too much for that.
And so Joseph is in prison. He cannot go home, even if he wanted to, and repent of his dreams.
God help us to know that the prison-houses which He ordains for our discipline are ordained of Him, that we might bring deliverance to others who are in prison because of their sin and iniquity. God help us to know that the hatred that is hurled against us, is intended of the Lord to bring forth love and mercy toward them. God help us to know that the misunderstandings to which we are subjected are ordained of the Lord that in the day of our release we might understand and show mercy to those who knew us not, and who in that day will be subjected to misunderstandings and torments and afflictions too grievous for them to bear.
Josephs feet were placed in fetters. But worse than that, his soul was laid in iron.
"Whose feet they hurt with fetters; His soul came into irons" (Ps. 105:18).
This is a more literal translation. Bodily affliction is one thing, and it can he very severe, But the bondage of the soul can oftentimes be even more severe.
And still the vision tarries. A year goes by... two years... five years... ten years...
But God was with Joseph and caused him to prosper. There is a scripture that says, "I would above all things that you should prosper, and be in health, even as your soul prospers." And what perversion men have made of it! Now dont look up Websters dictionary to get the meaning of the word "prosper"--you had better go to the Bible for that, or you will find yourself in a lot of trouble.
Joseph prospered in a prison-house... because he was there in Gods will, was being disciplined of the Lord, and God gave him favor with the captain of the guard. He found Joseph to be a trustworthy and obedient SLAVE, and God honored Joseph for his obedience to his master. Paul had a "prosperous" journey to Rome. I believe he did. He had prayed for one, and I believe God granted it. He went there in the will of God. Shipwrecked, of course, and he may have had to float to an island on a plank from the broken ship. Yet in and through it all it was a prosperous journey, because God was with him, as God confirmed the Word to the prisoners on the ship, to the sailors, to the captain of the soldiers. And when they landed on the island Paul saw the hand of God at work in healing the sick, and confirming the Word with signs following.
Prisoners Of The Lord
What do we mean, "prisoners," in this day and hour, and in this fair land of ours where we can do as we please, and live as we wish, and enjoy the fat of the land?
We are not really talking so much about the first degree of Josephs imprisonment... his natural prison.., but the second degree, "His soul was laid in irons..."
We mean that when we take His Name upon us, and dedicate ourselves to do His will... that freedom to do as we wish, to work where we will, to live as we please, to go into ministry for the Lord or work at our jobs, to travel as we will, or to stay home as we will... these are no longer options that are open to us. For Gods chosen ones the constraint is at first very grievous. Because serving the Lord" has taken on a "ministerial" connotation, and you are not really "serving the Lord" in the concept of many unless you are literally wearing yourself out for God. The world is your parish. The air-waves are the media by which you must send the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. The fields are white unto harvest, and you consider yourself to be lord of the harvest.
We know that God does use many, many methods to send forth the Truth, and we are not criticizing any of these methods if God has ordained them. But before we can be the kind of "servants" that God wants us to be He wants us to know that first of all we are "sons" in Fathers family; and as such we are not FREE to do as we see fit, just because we are "sons of the King." This seems to he the general concept. Rather, "sons of the King" must be subjected to a far greater measure and kind of discipline than ordinary citizens of the land. Their training is much more specialized, and the discipline that they must come under is much more stringent than what is involved in the upbringing of ordinary children. They are destined to rule and reign... and if they do not learn special discipline, hardship, patience, obedience, God knows they will never be able to hold the reins of government in His Kingdom.
Of course in the natural order the parents of royalty have revealed to their children what our Father often hides from us. They know what they are being subjected to, and why. And they get regular leave of absence to come home and enjoy the benefits of royalty. With you and me it may be quite different. We find ourselves like Joseph, and as we shall see later, like Simeon, like Benjamin, like Job... in prison-houses, or suddenly becoming a bondslave... and we do not know who is doing it, or why. Where did I sin? Why me? I am a seer, I am a prophet, I get dreams and interpretations.., why am I suddenly in a prison-house in Egypt, for no fault of my own? Or like Simeon later... Why should I have to spend months (or years, for all he knew) here in Egypt, a prisoner of Pharaoh, and my brothers can go merrily on their way home to their father in Canaan. Why me? Or like Benjamin... I just came down here because the lord of the land requested it, and now he frames me, and accuses me of theft, and I am to be his bond-slave. Or like Jacob back in Canaan, who was also in captivity, a slave to his own ideas, his own concepts, his own understanding... and yet all the while he was totally wrong: "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and now you will take Benjamin away. All these things are against me!" Or like Job, in desolation and captivity, not only to his bodily affliction, but to his reasonings, his concepts, his misunderstanding of Gods ways.
His soul has been laid in iron. "God," he says, "has set me up as His target, and Hes shooting His arrows at me... God is out to get me... and I dont know why, because I love Him with all my heart..."
The Kings Prisoners
The time came when Joseph found himself transferred to the place "where the kings prisoners were bound." Joseph knew that he was the prisoner of the king of Egypt... but did he know that he was the prisoner of the King of kings? He really did not know the implications of his transfer to the kings ward at the time; but he would understand later. He was really being favored of the Lord. Unknown to him, his contact with his fellow-prisoners would one day be known at the throne, and would be the key to his deliverance.
You and I might know that we are in the ward of the king, as Joseph did. But like Joseph we do not always know that we are in the ward of the King of kings. But we must come to this realization, if we are going to find release for our soul from the irons of affliction.
Paul writes to the Ephesians, "I therefore the prisoner of the Lord..." This is what released him from his captivity. Still a prisoner, yes, still in a prison cell in Rome; but now he is a free man, because he knows he is a prisoner of the Lord. For who is free, but the man who recognizes that his situation, his present circumstance, grievous and evil as it may be in the natural, is really one that has been ordained of God for the release of his soul? Who is free, but that man who knows he is really a prisoner, in captivity to his Lord?
Paul may never have discovered the real purpose of his imprisonment; but by faith he knew that God put him there. Little did he realize, as he satin his prison cell and wrote to the different churches, that he was really writing to the Church of every generation that would live from that day to the end of time.
He did know that the word of God was not bound, as he knew he was. But he did not know that the Word that he sent forth to a few hundred people here and there throughout Asia... would later become a part of the Holy Scriptures, and go forth to multiplied millions, scattered throughout the whole world to the end of time.
Two of Pharaohs officers are suddenly thrust into the prison cell with Joseph; and one night each of them dreamed a strange dream. They recognized the dreams to be supernatural, and therefore it left them troubled, because they had no idea what they meant. Joseph noticed their distress, and asked them about it. Then they confessed-they were bothered about their dreams. At Josephs request they bared their hearts, and told him what they had dreamed.
Immediately Joseph had the interpretation, For the one it meant restoration to his office as the kings butler, but for the other it meant execution. And both these things were to happen after three days.
"Remember me," Joseph said to the butler, "You will be back in the good graces of the king... Put in a good word for me, and get me out of here."
At last, he was beginning to make some kind of contact with the authorities. I have contacts now! Perhaps I will be out of here soon! But time rolls by... a week... two weeks... two months... a year... two years.., But the butler had completely forgotten him!
If we are in the place "where the Kings prisoners are bound," let us be thankful for that. But let us never put our confidence or our trust in our fellow-prisoners. Minister to them, or be ministered to by them.., yes. Love them, care for their needs as Joseph did, as a faithful prisoner-steward. But our trust and confidence must be in the Lord alone. The butler completely forgot about Joseph, which seems strange to us as we consider it. God must have caused him to forget so notable an event.
God certainly uses the various contacts we make in every day life, for some purpose known only to Him; and He was going to use this contact that Joseph had made with the butler, But He does not want us to put our confidence in anything, or anyone but Himself. We must look to Him for every benefit we receive, or ever hope to receive. We must never transfer our hopes from the Source of every good and perfect gift... to the channel. We thank the Lord for every channel of His provision; but our confidence cannot be placed in the CHANNEL, but in the FOUNTAIN.
If the spring that quenches the thirst of the prophet dries up, it is only that he might look to God for his next supply. It was God that opened the spring, and it was God who shut it off. And the God who provided the spring is still alive. Dont put your trust in riches, or in rich men.., either in church life, or in your personal dealings in the world. God does have stewards in His House, who recognize that all they have is the Lords. But our confidence must be in God alone, and not in some affluent steward. God often has to send the man of God to the house of a widow woman for bread and water. We thank the Lord for the ravens He once used; but we must not lament when they stop flying over our head and dropping our daily bread. They must not become objects of esteem or veneration. God put it into their heads to feed the prophet for a season. But if they cut off the flow of provision, they are not able to sever our contact with El Shaddai, the God of provision and supply. The God who provided the spring, and who sent the ravens, is still alive, and watching over His chosen ones.
Two full years have gone by. Enough time for Joseph to lose all confidence in the butler, and to renew his confidence in God alone.
Then one day it happened. He had been in prison (or at least in captivity) for thirteen years. His day had arrived.
It was a day like any other day. No premonition that his days of imprisonment were just about over. No sign that things were really getting better and better. It was a day like any other prison-day; the monotonous and routine duties of the prison-life lay before him as he awakened in the morning...
But suddenly the prison doors swing open, and one of Pharaohs servants stands before him and orders him to shave, clean-up, and put on some clean clothes. He has an appointment with Pharaoh, the lord of the land of Egypt.
Joseph stands before Pharaoh and hears the king of Egypt with troubled heart relating to him his strange dreams, about thin cows and fat cows.., thin ears of corn, and fat ears of corn. The same enablement that he knew in years past was there in his heart and mind. The prophetic mantle which he had known as a young lad at home with his father, was still upon him... scarcely used in those thirteen years of prison-life, but nonetheless vital and genuine; and no doubt much more pure than it would have been if he had gone about the land those thirteen years giving revelations and prophecies and interpreting dreams and visions.
Gods prisoners are not "out of the ministry." Rather, they are in extra-curricular training for a more pure and more vital form of ministry.
Do not fret about "fulfilling" your ministry. But do be very concerned lest you go forth in ministry unprepared, and without thorough immunization to the tests and temptations that come to one who has found popularity with people, and praise from the lips of men. It is more important that you be dedicated to the will of God, than that you be dedicated to the fulfillment of a ministry, For if you are dedicated to do the will of God... and if this should lead you to a prison-house... then the ministry that comes forth from the prison-house will be pure, vital, timely, powerful, and profitable to the Kingdom of God.
The dreams were about fat cows, and skinny cows.., fat ears of corn, and skinny, blasted ears of corn. The skinny cows ate up the fat cows but remained as skinny as ever, and the skinny ears of corn devoured the fat ones, and remained as skinny as ever. Pharaoh knew that only God could give dreams like that.
A Pure Ministry Is To Come Forth
One thing that stands out in importance in the lives of Gods chosen ones in their pursuit of the will of God, is the TIMING. Jesus would say, "My time is not yet come..." With the general run of ministry in the church it could be said, "Their time is always ready..." In fact that is considered to be a sign of their spirituality-always ready, always anxious to be out there doing something for God. I am a teacher, I want to keep busy teaching. I am a prophet, I want to be out there prophesying. I am an evangelist, I must not have any idle moments... there are open doors everywhere... I must get going...
But how wonderful it is when we begin to learn a little of Gods ways, and we discover that Gods WAYS and Gods TIMING are as vital to the WILL OF GOD, as the performance of the thing that God has in mind. So few there are who recognize this. Perhaps there is much good ministry in the land. It is genuine enough. But a lot of it is not related to the moving of Gods Spirit. There are specific needs amongst Gods people. And God has specific ministry to meet those needs. And how we need to learn to move in coordination and conformity to the sovereign moving of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the Church, in order to meet those needs.
We are coming into a new phase of life and ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ, wherein the Holy Spirit will be recognized by the people of God and by the ministry as the Lord of the Church in the midst of His people. Christ at Gods right hand is the Lord of the Church; and the Holy Spirit living and abiding in His Church, is the LORD IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE. And He will yet exercise that Lordship in our midst.
Of course, this is the Holy of Holies realm, and we know that all of Gods people will not walk in this realm. But some will--some must enter in. The Holy Place is the realm of gift and ministry, and is essential for the nourishing of the Body of Christ. And we certainly must go THROUGH this realm to enter into the HOLIEST of all. There is no back door to the HOLIEST OF ALL!
People say to us, "We need these gifts... we need these ministries..." Of course we need His gifts! But usually what they mean is, "We only need His gifts of power," and they fail to realize that the greater gifts are those which ARE STANDING BEFORE THE VEIL AND SHOWING GODS PEOPLE THE ENTRANCE TO THE BETTER WAY, THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY! They stand at the Golden Altar... the place of intercession and prayer on behalf of Gods people; or they seek to trim the lamps of the Candlestick, and furnish them with oil, that Gods people might know how to ENTER BEYOND THE VEIL! Not the Veil that was rent on the Cross many years ago, but in reality that same Veil, though it is now on the hearts of Gods people. And Gods precious gifts are being ministered by His chosen ones... words of wisdom, words of knowledge, words of faith, words of prophecy: words of revelation by the Spirit to encourage His people to enter THE HOLIEST OF ALL! These gifts are the CHANNELS of Truth; but now we must move forward to the SOURCE. They are but the MEANS to the END. They are intended to lead us into abiding, fruitful UNION WITH HIM WHO IS THE SOURCE of every spiritual gift and grace. We are talking about giving up the PART FOR THE WHOLE, of GOING FORTH FROM THE LESSER REALM TO THE GREATER, and into union with HIM WHO IS THE SOURCE!
A pure ministry unto the Lord is going to come forth. Many who are chosen of the Lord for this hour are not particularly attempting to fulfil their ministry. They have chosen rather to be obedient to God, and this has served to purify their ministry unto the Lord. And therefore they are precious and peculiar in His sight. As it was in Israel of old, the true priests of the Lord have no inheritance of their own. They seek only to bring others into their particular inheritance in God. They themselves can have no inheritance.., no kingdom that they might build.., no congregations or groups of people that they can call "theirs"... nothing that they can call by their name, and leave as an inheritance to others. And why did God deny them all this? Because God desired that He alone would be their inheritance!
Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: THE LORD IS THEIR INHERITANCE" (Deut. 18:2).
The Purpose of God... the Will of God... the Servant of God... the Timing of God. Today was that day when all these aspects of the workings of God would meet together! And by the Spirit of revelation Joseph not only clearly interpreted the dreams, but with discretion and spiritual understanding gave counsel and guidance to the king of Egypt, as to what he must do to save the land from starvation. There would be seven years of great plenty, followed by seven years of great dearth. The dearth would be so intense that the seven bountiful years that they were about to experience would not even be known or recognized when the days of famine were over.., and the land would be poor and devastated. But there would be provision for the people in that day, because of the provision that they were to make. Therefore Joseph advised, "Choose out a man, a man of wisdom and discretion, and have him lay up in store the bounty of the land for the grievous days of famine that lie before us."
Pharaoh and his servants knew immediately it was the voice of God. There was no doubt in their minds as to what they must do. "JOSEPH, YOU ARE THE MAN!"
"Moreover He called for a famine upon the land; He brake the whole staff of bread. HE SENT A MAN before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant, whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron; until the time that His word came: the word of the LORD tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: to bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom" (Ps. 105:17-22).
If we could only see things from Gods standpoint, what a difference it would make in our own perspective! But God does not allow this to happen until the prison-days are over. Were He to do so, perhaps we would very likely frustrate in our own lives the beautiful work that God had in mind. If I knew that thirteen years down the road there would be a great deliverance, a great visitation... how would I react? Make myself as comfortable as I can for the next thirteen years, and then look to God for the help He promised? Or would I really live in hope and expectation?
"How long, O Lord, before you come forth and manifest your salvation?"
"Why do you tarry so long? What are you waiting for? I am ready to go forth in your Name. Why dont you equip me for the task?"
And these questions, if truly born of the Spirit, will continue to work in our lives that needful preparation for the day of His visitation. It was so with Joseph. It was so with David. It has been so with Gods chosen ones through the ages. They must live by faith. To live by sight will not bring them to a place of preparedness. Do not get fascinated by dates and figures that men have discovered... that seem to fit in with Gods time-table. It may be right. But this will not prepare you for that hour. We must live in faith, in hope, in expectation. For "tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience (or, a sense of Gods approval), and experience HOPE..." This is the process. "What a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" If you see it, then hope cannot germinate and mature, and prepare the heart. It is in "not seeing it," and yet believing, that you will discover the unspeakable joy of HOPE.
But now Joseph can see the picture in proper perspective, from Gods standpoint. It was not Josephs brothers that were to blame for his troubles. It was not Potiphars wife, who lied about him and hated him because of the integrity of his heart, that landed him in prison. All this was part of the scaffolding... the props. All this was simply the outworking of evil that exists in the hearts of men... and which God turns to His glory in your life and mine as we recognize that the kingdom of Satan is very actively seeking to undermine and frustrate the purposes of God. But for His beloved ones God takes every evil device, every evil scheme, turns it about for His own glory, and causes it to work along with His own beautiful plan.
It was God who sent the man of God into Egypt...
And it was the Word of the LORD that tried him so severely.
Your Vision becomes your trial. Your Vision becomes your Cross. And perhaps we can say, the higher and the more pure your Vision, so the greater will be your Cross. And so will that vessel come forth from the furnace of affliction.., more pure, more vital, more important to the Kingdom of God... a "vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Masters use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim. 2:21). It is more important to be "useable" for the Master, than to attempt to be "used." It is more important to be "prepared" unto every good work, than to attempt to get involved in every good work.
The Stage Is Set
The stage is now set for the great drama that is about to unfold in the reconciliation of the Family of God; and Joseph is the key to the whole situation.
Joseph knows that the real purpose of his lordship over the land of Egypt is to bring deliverance to his own brothers, and to bring about a reconciliation in the whole family. But he does not seek them out, though he might have done so with the authority and privileges he now enjoyed. Seven years of plenty go by, and two years of famine... but Joseph does not go searching for his family in the nine years he has been in office. We may wonder why.
As we begin to move in the realm of the Spirit we become more and more aware of the fact that the pressing needs, the open doors, the evil circumstances that exist... all these are first and foremost Gods concern; and we can only truly bear the "burden of the Lord" as He lays it upon us. Of course, we must first of all take His yoke upon us, if we are going to share His burden; for God has given every man a "burden" to bear in the Body of Christ. But we must know it is really our "light affliction" that we bear, as we share His yoke; for Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." True, the burden may be very "heavy"... but we have to know it is Christs burden, before it becomes ours, and after it becomes ours; and this is what makes it "easy." We just know that the Spirit of God is in charge. We just know that only as we walk in the Spirit and do His will and take His yoke, will we be enabled to perform the desires of His heart.
I am persuaded that we can accomplish far more in ONE DAY in the yoke of Christ, than we could accomplish in a whole lifetime bearing a yoke of our own making.
Now what about the "burden" of the Body of Christ, and of bringing the Family of God into UNITY? It must be our "burden" because we know it is His. And the Spirit of God is here in His Church in Christs stead.., to accomplish and bring into being that which is the burden of Christ. I can safely leave the Family of God to Him, and by His grace be READY and PREPARED for the day and the hour that God has chosen for the reconciliation of the Family of God. And I know...
This Is Going To Take A Famine
It is going to take a FAMINE to reconcile the Family of God. I am sure of that. Tapes, tapes, and more tapes... Books, books, and more books. And now videos, and more videos. Never has there been such a supply of the Word, as we find in the earth today. A lot of mixture, I know... but a lot of provision too. And there is a Joseph people who are laying it up in store. And of course I dont mean cataloguing the books and the tapes so they can refer to them in the day of famine. I mean, in themselves, there is a Joseph people who are submitting to the furnace of affliction, and are thereby becoming a storehouse of plenty, for the day of famine.., locked up and sealed that they might open up and bring forth bread for the hungry in the day of famine.
Right now the Family of Jacob is pretty self-confident. They are in Canaan, feasting upon the good things of the land, and very confident. But there is a famine at the door...
"Not a famine for bread, Nor a thirst for water...
But of HEARING the words of the LORD" (Amos 8:11).
Not a famine of the words of the LORD; but a famine of HEARING those words. Jesus said, "Take heed how ye hear." There is an abundance of the Word, and it increases day by day, but it is getting more and more difficult for people to really HEAR what God is saying in this hour.
But self-confidence continues to prevail. "We are the Family of God, and God loves us, and we are getting along pretty good
That Christ has been betrayed and sold, few seem to recognize. It doesnt seem to bother them in the least...
That Christ has been sold for church temples, entertainment, gimmicks, and all manner of religious trash...
That the Song of the Lord, which proceeds from hearts that have been offered unto the Lord as a burnt offering, has been sold for jazz, rock music, polished musical talent...
That the Lordship of His Spirit has (in many, many cases) been sold for the lordship of some strong church leader, perhaps even for an apostle or prophet who exercises authoritarian control over the people...
That the Worship of God in Spirit and in Truth has been sold for a form of programmed worship, for drama and make-believe, for musical entertainment... and we could go on and on as we behold the many fleshly and carnal and sometimes devilish things that have driven Christ out of the Church!
That ministry is available for hire, and ministries are brought in that require large financing in order to stay in business...
That the House of God has become a den of thieves, as gifts and ministries of God are sold and bartered to the people for money, or for the applause of men.
No, Christ is not being sold for thirty pieces of silver these days. The Devil is bidding much higher today, and Christ is being sold for thousands, even millions of dollars... as men and women sell their gifts, or their ministries, or their Rock or their Jazz, for large sums of money to gullible Christians.
The Day of Famine is going to change all that. And I think we are fast approaching that Day... when the people of God are going to go searching for bread. And they are going to find it nowhere, but in the storehouses of Joseph in Egypt.
Joseph The Stranger
Finally the famine caught up with the Family of Jacob living in Canaan; and Jacob sent his sons down into Egypt to buy bread. Jacob would not let Benjamin go with them, because he was special to Jacob (being the full brother of Joseph, and the only son of Rachel his beloved, that was yet alive).
Joseph recognized his brethren as they stood before him; for they were much older than him, and he was but a young lad when he was sold into Egypt and had changed a lot. Besides, he was dressed in royal garb, and spoke the language of Egypt, and had a strange Egyptian name, Zaph-nath-paaneah.
What did this strange man do? Run to them and say, "Glad to see you my brothers! Remember me? I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt... but its all right now... let bygones be bygones..."
We have this foolish ecumenicism idea creeping in, even among the real people of God. "Look for every opportunity you can find for fellowship. Dont be so exclusive. Dont let differences Interfere, or what you believe... just try and get along with the rest of the Family of God..."
We love Gods people, and we have no problem getting along with Gods people, or with business people in the world as far as that goes. But where is the fellowship? John said...
"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, WE HAVE FELLOWSHIP ONE WITH ANOTHER" (John 1:7).
There is not necessarily any fellowship sitting side-by-side with two thousand people in a church building. Fellowship means a sharing, a communication in spiritual things, a receiving and a giving.., back and forth in the Spirit. Not necessarily everyone with a little sermon. Not necessarily everyone doing something every time you come together. But there is a mutual concern one for the other, a seeking after God for His way, a pursuing of the Vision of God, a hope, an expectation of the lordship of Christ becoming preeminent in our midst.., a desire to walk in the Light. If these elements are not there, there is no FELLOWSHIP. We desire it... we want it... we anticipate it.., and in a small measure we have it. But there will be no true fellowship in the midst of Gods people until the Spirit of the Lord is given His lordship as we gather together... to cleanse, to purge, to pull down, to overthrow, and to destroy all the idols that have been erected in the house of God.
And I believe it is going to take the Famine to do it. And therefore we anticipate the Famine, because we know it is the only way that the Family of God will be reconciled and purged and cleansed.
The First Confrontation
"And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food" (Gen. 42:7).
I have to admit that in years past I felt a little disappointed in Joseph... that instead of throwing his arms around them and blessing them he should act so conceited. "Where are you from?"... and "What do you want?"... and "No! But you are spies, you have just come here to spy out the land and observe all the desolation that we have here." But now I understand that Joseph, in the Spirit of prophecy, was following the leading of the Lord, as this great drama of reconciliation began to unfold.
"O No!" they said, "We are true men." And I think they believed they were. Living together on the fat of the land, in beautiful Canaan, had somehow caused them to forget their hypocrisy, forget their jealousy, forget their treachery... and they were able at this stage to take their place as "true men." You know, the blessing of God was intended to bring men to repentance; but almost invariably the sinful heart of man will misconstrue the blessing of God for His approval of their sinful ways. Paul said, "Do you not realize that the goodness of God was intended to lead you to repentance?" (See Rom. 2:4.) Some people would object: "I dont think that is Gods way, to send famines to bring them to repentance... God is a good God... He would not do that." God does not want to do it, but if His goodness will not do it, the famine is His only alternative.
We are near that day when He with eyes "as a flame of fire" will rise up in the midst of His people, to reveal and lay bare the secrets of the heart, and to cleanse and purge the Family of God. He will search out the hidden recesses of the heart, and expose the works of darkness that abound in the midst of Gods people. And we know there are areas of darkness in all of us. But God is not in the least interested or pleased in having a large congregation stand before Him with hands raised high in praise and worship, while in and through it all the idols of this world are portrayed upon the walls of their heart, and the Lordship of Christ is far from their minds.
It was God who led Joseph to use the "rough" language... to speak to them as a stranger through an interpreter... and all the while he was doing it, his heart was breaking out of love and compassion for them. God was simply leading him step by step in a manner that would expose the iniquity that was in his brethren, and bring them to genuine repentance. I know there is a cry in the land from some sources, and it is good... "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." But until these words come forth in the spirit of prophecy and anointed of the Lord, as they did through John the Baptist, repentance will not be ministered to the people of God. Only God can open the heart and grant the mercy and the grace of repentance. And this is going to take a famine, and a prophetic anointing such as Joseph had, such as John the Baptist had... before we are going to see it.
"You say you have a younger brother," said Zaph-nath-paaneah, "Then go home with food for your families, and when you come again bring your younger brother with you as positive proof. In the meantime I will keep one of you as a hostage."
God was beginning to draw in the net... and Joseph, a prophet of God, was moving in the Spirit, and following the leading of the Lord.
Joseph took Simeon and bound him before their eyes; and put him in ward as a hostage. And the other boys went back home with grain for their families. Not only grain.., but the money they had brought in the first place was replaced in their sacks much to their surprise and to their bewilderment. (I know it takes time and money to do anything these days for yourself or for the Lord. But the Joseph people will be characterized by the fact that they will not make merchandise of the things of God.)
Joseph knew the famine would last another five years, but he was making sure that they would return to Egypt soon; so he kept Simeon as a hostage.
Simeon, In Captivity
"Simeon" means "Hearing." Gods "Simeons" have the ability to "hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches." God has His Simeons out there who have that enablement; and God will use them in the day of His new visitation. But they too will have to repent for the selling of Christ in this day and hour of His betrayal. Right now for some reason or another, perhaps for the sake of "unity," they are not overly concerned. O there are things that bother them... but what can they do about it? There they are in Canaan, and that is their "home"... their brothers and sisters are all there...
But God knows how to snare His Simeons in the day of famine.
Joseph takes Simeon as a hostage, and he too is cast into prison. Now hes got time to sit and listen.., no cows to look after... no barns to build... he can just sit there and look at the floor and ceiling... and meditate. "Whats this all about? Why would God do this to me? I dont deserve this." Simeon has left home, but not of his own doing. He was taken captive, but not of his own will.
God was actually being merciful to him, though he knew it not at the time. He missed his brothers. He missed his children. He missed his father... But he had to admit... the food was good. He was treated reasonably well, but he was a prisoner.
If you have a faculty for hearing the Word of the Lord (and of course I dont mean the ability to hear good sermons and teachings and analyze them)... but if beyond the letter of the Word you have the enablement to hear what God is really saying, rejoice in that. For there are many who have ears to hear, and they hear not. Many that have eyes to see, and they see not.
But even as you rejoice in the good things you are hearing, be prepared for the day and hour when you, too, will become a captive, And in that hour you must know that you are in captivity to your Joseph... your Lord. It may not seem that way... for it will truly be a prison-house, closed doors, iron bars... and you hear nothing from without but strange words, foreign words. Your Joseph may visit you on occasion... or He may not. I do not know. But even if He does He will not tell you who He is, and you will think He is a cruel dictator.
God is in the process of reconciling the Family of Jacob, and now you are part of that process. You cannot run away from your prison if you tried. Besides you brought it upon yourself. I mean, as you sought the Lord, and as you heard His voice, and desired that all other voices would be shut out but His, that you might be wholly shut in with Him alone.., so God heard and answered, and brought you into captivity to Himself.
The Second Confrontation
This was all very bitter for Jacob, when the boys returned home without Simeon. Not only that, but on their return to Egypt for corn they were going to have to take Benjamin along. "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and now ye will take Benjamin away... all these things are against me." But there was no other way; they were at the point of starvation. Jacob was forced to yield. "Take Benjamin and go, and God help us "
Now Benjamin was so named of Jacob because at birth Jacob recognized that here was one who was special to God, even as Joseph was special to God. Joseph means, "He will add"; for when he was born Rachel said, "He will add," and she called him Joseph. As a minister friend once said, "Rachel loved Joseph so much... that even in her sorrow she said, I must have another one". Very unusual for a woman to make that kind of a wish in the moment of travail and sorrow! But God is showing us that in the hour of the travail of Christ that God saw such beauty in Christ, and loved Him so much, that He said, "I must have a family like Him..."
Benjamin was Josephs full brother. They were Rachels only children; and in bringing forth Benjamin, Rachel died. This beautiful son was Rachels "Son of sorrow"... but Jacob renamed him, "Son of my right hand." Benjamin and many of his sons of later generations, would be weak in themselves... but with their left hand in Gods right hand, they were the SONS OF THE RIGHT HAND! Benjamin and Joseph are very much identified... and we hear our Lord Jesus saying, "Behold I, and the children Thou hast given Me."
Rachel was barren for many, many years. But God ordained it that way, that in her barrenness God might be glorified. Gods special ones in Scripture were often born of "barren" women. For God must have all the glory for that special thing that He would do in the earth. Every true and genuine moving of Gods Spirit in the earth comes forth from a barren people. They suffer reproach for their barrenness; and that causes them to seek God more earnestly. And when He comes forth on their behalf God is greatly glorified, and their soul rejoices in God their Saviour in praise and worship such as Leah, and Hagar, and Peninnah, know nothing about.
And so once again the sons of Jacob visit the harsh lord of the land of Egypt... this time with Benjamin along. Josephs heart yearned over him... but he must move in the flow of the Spirit
The Family Feasts Together
Joseph has the sons brought to his own home, and a feast is prepared for them. Simeon is brought out of prison, and they are all seated at the table, in the order of their birth. All the sons wondered at the wisdom and knowledge of Zaph-nath-paaneah, who was able to arrange the sitting at the table in the order of their birth. And they feasted and rejoiced together. One family again.., all seated at the same table.., eating and sharing together, and rejoicing in the renewed relationship one with the other.
But not really ONE yet Not really joined together. Still a wall between them: Joseph at his table, and the sons at theirs. They are getting closer to the day of Josephs unveiling. But still, they knew him not.
Another Test For The Sons Of Jacob
Let us guard against that jealous spirit that runs rampant in the midst of Gods people... not only concerning natural things, but concerning spiritual things. God must root out of our lives all that striving to succeed, and to become better than our neighbour. When God bestows more abundant honor on "those parts which lack" (as He said He would do), let us guard our spirits lest we be inclined to reject them, because they appear to be climbing a little higher in God than we are, and we appear to be falling short. Let not Gods goodness to them provoke a spirit of envy in us. Pride is at the root of it all. We feel we are really better... so when others receive more from God, some do not like it. Perhaps they excelled in the past and got to the top... and now they want to stay in the top position.
God help us to know that He never blessed anybody to make them higher, but that they might partake of grace to be more humble. A ministry is a "service," and that is what the word means. The true minister is a servant of God; a servant to the people, and not their master. Why then all this exaltation of clergy above laity? And who started that grand distinction of "clergy" and "laity" anyway? How can one take the name "reverend" ...a name that is applied to God alone? ("Holy and Reverend is His Name" Ps. 111:9.) The word means "to be feared." Rather God gave His ministers a gift of service, and with that gift there is enabling power to impart, and enhance, and promote the life of Christ in others. In Gods sight there is no distinction, other than in the particular function of their calling. They are all "brethren" in His sight. After God had honored David so highly by giving him power over the Philistine giant, the women came out of the villages singing...
"Saul hath slain his thousands...
And David his TEN thousands..."
"So," reasoned Saul, "they are giving David more honor than they are giving me... next, he will want the kingdom!" He was judging Davids heart according to the condition of his own. David had no such aspirations... he knew what God had promised; and he would continue to humble himself before God, and even before Saul. Almost from Sauls beginning as king, those seeds of self-will and rebellion, and envy, and jealousy, had taken root in his heart. Pride will blind the eyes, so that you cannot see it, or know it is there. Because Saul refused to deal with the rebellion and self-will and envy of his heart, he allowed seeds of jealousy to grow until he was harassed by an evil spirit.
As God begins to bestow abundant honor on those who are "lacking" in the Family of God, as I know He is going to do, we are going to see a lot of envy and jealousy asserting itself in the hierarchy of the ministry. Nicolaitanism is not something that died out in the early Church. (The word means "to conquer the people.") There is a strong Nicolaitan hierarchy in the Church today, that is determined to keep the people subdued, and God is going to set His people free. He is going to bestow His own honor upon His humble ones. And let us rejoice when we see this happening... even if it appears they are receiving more than we have. But we need also to pray for them lest in their enrichment they too fall into the trap of "pride" and thus forfeit the grace that God gave them, by assuming a position of self-importance because of their gifts.
This is the test that Josephs brethren were subjected to, as God gave him honor and favour in the sight of his brothers; and they eventually sold him "through envy" into Egypt. And now this is the test that a proven and tried vessel, proven and tried in the furnace of affliction, would bring to bear upon these same brothers in the time of their desolation. Had they really changed? Had God wrought true repentance in their hearts?
And so as they sat feasting about the table together, Joseph would send portions from his table to his brothers... but he sent a five-fold portion to Benjamin! Little Benjamin who sat at the foot of the table, for he was the youngest of them all! How would his brothers react to this? Would there be envy, jealousy, complaining?
Ah No! They were in trouble now. God had brought them very low. The famine had achieved the purpose God had in mind when He sent it. They rejoiced for Benjamin. A little later, when they went on their way, the sons were all given changes of raiment... but Benjamin received "three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment." (The number FIVE stands out in the Scriptures as the number of GRACE, the number of Gods unmerited favor towards man.)
The famine had produced contrition of heart, repentance, humility, meekness, kindness, brotherly love... God knows how to bring the Family of God into harmony with Himself and with one another!
Still Joseph was a stranger to them. They knew him not! What is it going to take for the Lord of Glory to come forth in our midst in such a way that we will be able to say in honesty and truth: "We have seen the Lord"?
Well, you say, He is coming again, and we shall see Him. I know that. But I also know that there is to be a visitation of the Lord of Glory in the midst of His people who are His special Family, before He is openly unveiled before the world. Jesus said, "The world seeth me no more, but YE see Me"... and He was talking about coming to them in His Spirit.
There is that visitation of the Lord of Glory, that consumes the sin and the evil that is in the hearts of His people; and John says the reason men sin is because they have not SEEN Him. (See 1 John 3:6; 3 John 11.)
There is that visitation of the Lord such as Paul had, long after His ascension, when He appeared on the Damascus road, and shone forth with a light brighter than the noonday sun.
There is the appearing of the Lord in the midst of His people where they shall SEE HIM, and they shall become LIKE HIM, "for they shall SEE HIM AS HE IS" (1 John 3:2).
There is that shining forth of the Lord in the midst of His people, when... "beholding as in a glass the GLORY OF THE LORD, we are CHANGED INTO THE SAME IMAGE from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
The Hour Of Repentance Draws Nigh
The sons were sent on their way home with corn for their families, with the money in their sacks, and with Josephs silver cup in Benjamins sack. For Benjamin was something special to Joseph... and he was next in line to be taken into captivity. When they had just got a little beyond the city walls Joseph sent his servant to apprehend them... and to accuse them for stealing his silver cup.
Of course, they were absolutely sure that none of them had done that. And all the while the servant was opening and closing their sacks they stood by quite satisfied and contented... they just knew no such thing had happened.
Then suddenly, utter devastation, when the servant of Joseph discovered the cup in Benjamins sack! Immediately they were taken back to the city, and brought before the lord of the land.
What was God really doing? Just revealing, seeking to uncover the secrets of their hearts. The silver cup was just a ploy. The boys knew they had not stolen that... but they had done things far worse than that, and thought they got away with it. People get disturbed when they are falsely accused. Perhaps we had better stop and think to ourselves: "I know I didnt do that... but yes, I have done things much worse." If we can do that in such an hour, we may discover the grace for the trial, and the cleansing and the forgiveness we need. These boys were responsible for Josephs afflictions, and for all the misunderstandings that he had to endure. It was fitting retribution that they should be apprehended for sins they did not commit.
"Let him curse," David said of Shimei who walked along the hillside with the company that was fleeing Jerusalem at the time of Absaloms rebellion. "Let him curse, God told him to do it."
Shimei was wrong for cursing the Lords anointed. But David knew at that particular time that it was something he needed, some form of judgment that God had laid upon him, and he recognized that God told Shimei to curse David. Dont let this bother you. It wasnt Nathan that God sent with this hard word... it was Shimei. Nathan was not a cursing man, and God will not ask you to do the cursing if you are a Vessel of Mercy. But Shimei was a cursing man, and so God gave him that dirty job to perform, and David knew it was coming to him. He knew that God was fulfilling a long outstanding judgment concerning his great sin; and because he received it all as from the Lord, God wrought grace and humility in Davids heart.
God used Shimei for this dirty job. Take heed, you who delight in seeing God use your curses to harass and judge the people of God. Your curses might be effective, if God permit... if God has decreed that judgment was necessary. But may God have mercy on you, and cause you to question Him, as to why He chose you for this dirty task, rather than a Vessel of Mercy. God found Shimei "fit" for such a task. Let us stop praying, "God use me," and start praying, "God make me FIT to be a Vessel unto Honor, and FIT for the Masters use."
Silver is a type of Redemption; and God was using this silver vessel in a redemptive manner. Joseph was able to hear the sons say from their own lips, "God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are thy lords servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found" (Gen. 44:16).
But Joseph refused to take them all as bond-slaves. His heart yearned over them, and all along he was looking for an opportunity to bestow great grace upon them. But first of all, he had to bring them into devastation and captivity.
Why God Refrains Himself
Joseph said, "The man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father" (Gen. 44:17).
Why, Joseph, do you insist on dragging out this whole process, when we know your heart is breaking, and you long to throw your arms around your brethren and embrace them?
I wonder if we do not often look upon God and some of His dealings with us, and in our hearts accuse Him for hiding Himself in the time of our dilemma. It has been the heart cry of His chosen ones all through the ages:
"Lord, why are you hiding yourself Why are you tarrying so long?..."
If we could only understand and know that God longs to come forth in our midst and lavish His love upon us, then we would begin to question the condition of our own hearts: "Lord, is there something within that you find offensive? Some idol? Some unseemly thing that causes you to turn your face away from us? For just at that moment when we think we are on the verge of a visitation of the Lord, You run to another room, and we are left to our own accusing heart!"
Little do we realize in times like that that as Joseph would run to another room, it was to weep before the Lord. He longed to reveal himself to his brethren, far more than they longed to see him. If we only knew that our Lord longs to come to us in the Beauty and Glory of His presence, far more than we long to receive Him! But by nature we are not compatible with His Glory. It would only devastate and destroy us. It is only the broken and the contrite heart that can receive of His Presence--and little by little as there is heart-searching and repentance and commitment, little by little He comes to us, and makes Himself known.
The Commitment Of Praise
God wants a deeper, and a still deeper commitment. We hear it so much... we talk about it a lot. And I believe that in teaching it, and mentioning it often, God is preparing our hearts for the day and hour when we will be enabled to give Him our all. I think that if the Lord were to come suddenly and tell us plainly: "Now I want this, and I want that..." it could be so devastating and so far beyond our ability to hear, that we might draw back. But little by little as He draws in the net, and we find ourselves in areas of confinement that devastate us, and leave us in utter perplexity, we are confronted with the inevitable: "Look now, son... daughter... there is no way to go! There is no way out! Better sell out completely to your Lord!"
Why do we hesitate? And why do we fear to give Him all, that we might have Him? It can only be because we have not known Him as we ought. We have not seen Him as we ought. Is He not enough? Have our eyes been so blinded by sin, by self, by condemnation, by wrong thinking about Him, that when He says, "Give Me your all, that I might give you My ALL"... we shrink back, and say "Yes, Lord, but please... not THIS..."?
God does reveal Himself from time to time to His people... but before we behold Him in the fulness of His Presence, the Lord is waiting for the ultimate commitment, which I am going to call THE COMMITMENT OF PRAISE!
Before the second trip to Egypt, the boys had been making commitments to their father, in order to persuade him to release Benjamin; for they just knew they could not stand before Zaph-nath-paaneah without Benjamin by their side. Reuben said, "Leave it to me, Dad... if I dont bring Benjamin back, slay my two sons." Later Judah said, "Dad, send Benjamin with me... I will be surety for him... if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever" (Gen. 43:9).
Now they stand before the lord of the land, and Benjamin is taken to be a bondslave of Pharaoh. Here is your opportunity, Reuben and Judah! Speak up!
But Reuben is silent. Of course, he did not have his two sons with him, or perhaps he would offer them to Pharaoh. He told Jacob he could slay them if he did not bring Benjamin back! Speak up Reuben! But Reuben is silent. Reuben was the first born, and he proved to be "unstable as water." The first-born, the natural man, is slow to relinquish his own title-deed. My sons? Yes! But not myself.
But Judah steps forward and makes such a commitment, you just know God has wrought a great work in his heart. It was Judah that said about twenty-two years earlier:
"Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites..." (Gen. 37:27).
Of course, that was a long time ago. Let bygones be bygones! Lets just be the big happy family of God! Ah no! God will continue to harass and devastate His people until there comes forth true humility and repentance; for only then can the Body of Christ function and move in the earth as the expression of the living Christ.
Now "Judah" means "Praise," and that is why we are talking about the COMMITMENT OF PRAISE! Hear what PRAISE has to say:
"For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. Now therefore, I pray thee, LET THY SERVANT ABIDE INSTEAD OF THE LAD A BONDMAN TO MY LORD; AND LET THE LAD GO UP WITH HIS BRETHREN" (Gen. 44:32,33).
God does delight in the PRAISES of His people, and we are not denying that. But it is time that Gods people understand that PRAISE is THE FRUIT OF THEIR LIFE as well as THE FRUIT OF THEIR LIPS, and not just a certain ritual they go through when they assemble in His Name. In so many, many cases the praises of God are mere lip-service; and PRAISE is encouraged to bring life to a dead meeting. It does not matter how much self-seeking there might be in the people or in the leadership. Pride, jealousies, covetousness, emulations... may be rampant. The Lordship of Christ may have been ruled out of order. But if the people stand and raise their hands in "praise" for a few minutes, their conscience has been soothed, and they are assured that God came down, because "He inhabiteth the praises of His people."
Read the Scriptures and see what happened when God came down and revealed Himself: people would fall prostrate before Him. Isaiah would cry aloud, "I am unclean... I dwell in the midst of a people who are unclean..." People would fear and quake before Him, because of the awesomeness of His presence. There would be a purging and a cleansing, and the fear of God would grip the hearts of all. But one can go away from these meetings, where God was supposed to have come down unchanged, unmoved... ready to pursue their course of life as usual... only to return Sunday after Sunday to another programmed meeting, with no thought of giving Christ His Lordship in their lives... no thought of being changed. This is not a "judgment"... It is just a simple observation of what I see in the Church of Jesus Christ today.
The Altar Of Incense
"And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire FROM OFF THE ALTAR before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil, And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat" (Lev. 16:12,13).
This is what the high priest did on the Day of Atonement. The Altar of Incense speaks of ones communion with God: worship, praise, prayer, thanksgiving. David said, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Ps. 141:2).
But there was no sweet smelling savour from the incense except as the incense was placed upon the FIRE FROM THE ALTAR. Just any kind of fire was not sufficient. In fact just any kind of fire was deadly. Nadab and Abihu discovered that. IT HAD TO BE FIRE FROM OFF THE ALTAR that would consume the incense, and cause the cloud to ascend unto God. David speaks about the "high praises" of God that were to be in the mouths of His people. The word "high" means "to mount up or "to ascend." The "high praises of God" are the praises that MOUNT UP, that ASCEND from lips that have known the fire of the Brazen Altar. They could start no fire of their own in the Holy Place as they stood before the Veil, which secluded the Ark of the Covenant and Gods Glory from their view. The Altar of Incense in the Holy Place was not constructed for burning sacrifices, but in acknowledgment of, and in praise of Him who became our Sacrifice on the Brazen Altar. It was out there that the fire had to be kindled. If there is to be true worship, and praise, and adoration, and prayer... it must be kindled from the FIRE OF THE ALTAR. It must come from the place of sacrifice. It must come from the place of commitment, of consecration. And the fire that consumed the sacrifice would become coals in the burning censer, to cause the cloud to ascend and cover the mercy seat. John saw the angel of God standing before the Altar of Incense, and adding incense to the prayers of the saints... and I am sure the word "prayers" includes our whole life of communion before God: prayer, praise, worship, thanksgiving, intercession... (Read Hannahs prayer in 1 Sam. 2:1-8, where she asked God for NOTHING... and Habakkuks prayer in Hab. 8:1-19, where he prays... recounts the mighty works of the LORD... rejoices in his God... and commits the whole prayer to the singers, to put it into song.)
God, stand by us at the time of prayer and praise, and add the incense to our censers, and help us to bring the coals of fire from a broken and a contrite heart... that our prayers might be fervent, hot, and effectual.., and that our praises might be HIGH, mounting up to heaven, ascending from our hearts as well as from our lips.
God help us to know that it is the broken and the contrite heart, the bruised heart, the truly penitent heart... the heart that has been laid bare and consumed on the Altar of Burnt Offering... that causes the incense of the Lord to cover the mercy seat, and the Presence of God to be made known in the midst of His people.
A certain minister I knew had a vision as he sat in one of these "praise" meetings. He saw the praises of the people as crowns upon their heads. Every one had crowns. All kinds of crowns. Cheap looking crowns. Paper crowns. Some of them looked like dunce-caps cut out of paper and put together. Then a few crowns of pure gold, beautiful to behold.
Let me tell you, beloved, THE PRAISES OF JUDAH are born out of the commitment of Judah: "Make me to be your bond-slave, Lord, but let my brother go free..." When Gods people come to that place where they are prepared to "lay down their lives for the brethren".., let me assure you, God will be there to inhabit that kind of PRAISE!
The Unveiling Of Joseph
"Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto his brethren, I AM JOSEPH..." (Gen. 45:1-3).
To me this has always been the most heart-breaking, heart-moving scene to be found anywhere in the Bible!
The room had to be emptied. No place here for curious onlookers. No place here for those who have known Zaph-nath-paaneah, the Saviour of Egypt, but have never had any intimate dealings with the MAN that God sent to Egypt, the MAN that was betrayed, the MAN that was sold, the MAN upon whom hung the hopes of Israel. Joseph must be alone with his brothers.
Beloved, there is coming forth a revelation of Christ in the midst of His people that we can only faintly visualize at this moment. The world will not see this "revelation of Christ." It is an unveiling of Christ in the midst of His brethren... brethren who have come to devastation, to perplexity, to bewilderment, to frustration... and because of all this, to genuine heart-felt repentance and brokenness of heart.
I am confident that this is what God is looking for in this hour... and I know it will not come until the people of God become disillusioned with the emptiness and the futility of religious entertainment... the snappy music... the giddy laughter and the empty joy of a religious show that has ruled Christ out of their midst, and they know it not. Laughter and joy has become the trademark in our churches, as it is in the theaters. If a minister knows how to make people laugh, he has it made. If he cant, he is considered to be dull and boring. Let me tell you, the commitment of PRAISE is going to produce weeping and brokenness of heart in the people of God. The people of God have become estranged from their Lord. But the captivity of Babylon, and the famine that is coming, is going to change all that:
"In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten" (Jer. 50:4,5).
What about returning to Zion with singing and everlasting joy upon their heads? Yes, thats coming too. But first the people of God must "ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward." They must be committed to "join themselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten."
The Lord Jesus is a Stranger to the people of God! And all the while He stands at the door and knocks and asks for admission: NOT AT THE HEARTS DOOR OF SINNERS... BUT AT THE DOOR OF THE CHURCH:
"If ANY MAN hear My voice, and will open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20).
Joseph wept aloud... so loud that the Egyptians in the adjoining room could hear him. It was a weeping of joy, because his afflictions were now bearing fruit in the lives of his brethren. His many hurts had become redemptive.., because now there is repentance in the family of Jacob. Remember, hurts can only become redemptive when they have been healed in the prison of the King. Joseph could never have brought his brethren to repentance as long as he nurtured in his bosom any thoughts of greatness, any thoughts of pre-eminence, any thoughts of bitterness, any thoughts of what he had lost because of his exile. The prison... the Kings prison, had taken all that out of him.
Joseph wept aloud. It was the weeping of JOY that inevitably follows the weeping of sorrow and trial of that one who has known the crucibles of God. It was the weeping of joy, as he beheld the broken and the contrite hearts of his brethren.., as he saw former jealousies and hates being washed away in cleansing streams; streams that flowed from the heart, and to the eyes, and down the cheeks.
What a revelation of the heart of God there is going to be when our Lord stands in our midst with those searching, penetrating eyes and lays bear the secrets of the heart; and the Family of God begins to realize that they have actually betrayed their Lord and sold Him into Egypt! Sold Him for pleasure, for carnal gratification, for wealth, for popularity. Sold the gifts they received from God, for base gain. Sold their ministries. Bartered with the things of God. Made merchandise of holy things... right in the temple. Changed the truth of God for a lie. Exchanged the song of the Lord that is born at the Altar of God for the songs of Babylon and the music of devils.
And all the while salving over their conscience and saying, "We are doing it for the Lord.., we are true men... we are the Family of God."
Some months ago I saw a picture advertised for sale in a Christian magazine. It was called "The Laughing Jesus." The picture showed Jesus laughing hilariously. Let me tell you, beloved, Jesus is not laughing over His people. He is weeping over them... weeping over their sins, weeping over their hardness of heart.
The Healing Virtue Of Forgiveness
Our Lord is quick to forgive.., quick to receive us. He has wept over us, and longed for us... and when He sees true brokenness and repentance He weeps for joy as He beholds the broken and the contrite heart. It is the joy of fellowship restored... the joy of having brothers that are now brothers indeed, and no longer tainted with jealousies and hatred.
Forgiveness comes easy to Gods Josephs... because they have partaken of the heart of their Lord. Forgiveness is something they have stored up in readiness to flow. It is not something they hold back until they see repentance. It is there in readiness, as it was with Jesus. He forgave us at the Cross... long, long before we asked Him for it. But we do not know it, and we cannot receive it, until we are humble and contrite enough to ask Him for it.
There is no real forgiving spirit in the man who says... "He has wronged me... if he repents... yes, I guess I will forgive him." Forgiveness must be there in the heart... and it must begin to be stored up the moment you are wronged. He must make it right, I know. But forgiveness is ready to be released. God says "Love never faileth." So you long for him, pray for him, seek God on his behalf... that somehow he might not continue on hurting himself. He cannot hurt you, if you draw nigh to the heart of God. Those original hurts you felt are healed, because you have granted forgiveness in advance of his repentance.
The flow of forgiveness and mercy in your heart and mine, even though not appropriated and received by our brother, will bring us cleansing and freedom. You would like to release it to others... but God must finish the work in them before you can do so. But it has released you already... because it flows through your blood-stream... in cleansing, forgiving, healing power... and all the while you are anticipating the day when it will bring healing to your brother.
And if perchance the prison-house of our experience has not wrought this grace in our lives, then we remain prisoners unto ourselves, and will never be able to set others free.
God grant unto us the spirit of Joseph, the Spirit of Jesus... that we might see the working of God in and through every bitter experience of life, in order that healing streams of life might flow forth from the Family of God to those who languish in captivity and in bondage.
Manasseh And Ephraim
Joseph had two sons born to him after his release from captivity and his exaltation to a place of power in the land.
"And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my fathers house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction" (Gen. 41:51,52).
This is Gods order: Manasseh, then Ephraim. God must cause us to forget, before we can become fruitful. You and I are not going to be fruitful until we can forget our past; and this includes our victories, as well as our defeats. This could be particularly difficult for those who have known a lot of success in the past, and have thoughts of greatness; but if God is gracious toward them, they will find themselves in the Kings Prison, and will have the opportunity to know what this is all about. There has to be a FORGETTING of the past before we are going to know true FRUITFULNESS in the Kingdom of God. Consider the achievements of the great apostle Paul, and the mighty ministry that flowed from his life... and hear him saying many years later, because of the Vision he had caught of the high calling of God:
"But this one thing I do, FORGETTING those things which are behind, and REACHING FORTH unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling..." (Phil. 3:13, 14).
You are going to have to forget past achievements if you are going to WIN Christ; but you are also going to have to forget past prisons, past hurts, past difficulties, past defeats. The memories of the past, whether they be of successes or of defeats, can he equally destructive to a fruitful walk with God. But the prison house can erase the memory of it, if we will accept the grace that He has for us in this hour.
You will remember that when Joseph brought his two sons to the bedside of his dying father for the patriarchal blessing, how Joseph brought Ephraim in his RIGHT hand toward Jacobs left, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Jacobs right. In this way he was making it easy for his blind father to stretch forth his hands, and put the right hand of pre-eminence on the head of Manasseh, and his left hand on the head of Ephraim. After all, Manasseh was the firstborn. But Jacob, even on his deathbed was moving in the prophetic anointing, and he deliberately crossed his hands over the heads of the two boys, giving Ephraim the blessing of the right hand, and Manasseh the blessing of the left hand. This displeased Joseph, but Jacob gently reminded him: "I know what I am doing, Joseph... Ephraim must have the pre-eminence.
The past would have its rewards; but the past must give way to "those things which are before." By way of experience we have Manasseh first, and then Ephraim. But God puts the SIGN OF THE CROSS over the heads of Manasseh and Ephraim! Ephraim means double-fruitfulness. There are greater things ahead, a greater measure of fruitfulness for Gods people. But the SIGN OF THE CROSS must be applied to our past as well as to our future, if we are truly going to pursue the pathway to the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
There Is Therefore No Condemnation
"Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did SEND ME before you to preserve life" (Gen. 45:5).
Once God has brought His Family to true repentance and brokenness of heart, He wants to remove the sting of condemnation. He does not want us to burden our conscience with the sins and failures of the past; and He has given us in the scriptures a beautiful example of the mercy that He bestowed on the greatest of sinners.
God apprehended and saved the greatest sinner that ever lived! In this way He has given us an example of His great longsuffering and patience and grace. If He was able to save the greatest of sinners, surely He knows how to bestow mercy and grace on the lesser sinners! This man was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, a murderer; but he became a great apostle, and preached Christ in power and anointing and great fruitfulness. And without elaborating in detail on all the sordid things he committed in his past, he said...
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I AM CHIEF" (1 Tim. 1:15).
God saved the Chief! O I know, we may all feel that way, when God comes to us with that penetrating, convicting Sword of His Spirit. But Paul meant what he said; he was the CHIEF OF SINNERS. And then he tells us why God chose the CHIEF. It was that God might present a true picture of His mercy and longsuffering, that all lesser sinners might have hope:
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I AM CHIEF. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first (or literally, that in me as THE CHIEF)Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1 Tim. 1:15,16).
But isnt it strange... though we know these things, and are aware that our Lord loves us with an everlasting love.., that He gave His life for us, and suffered the agonies of the Cross... that we can continue on in self-condemnation, accusing ourselves where God has justified... condemning ourselves when God has pardoned... blaming ourselves, when Christ has taken all the blame?
O how we need to acquaint ourselves more and more with the great heart of God! For though He has declared Himself openly on the Cross, and by the Spirit, to be the "Just, and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus"... we still battle with thoughts, condemning thoughts, that do not glorify God. "God is angry with me, God is after me, God is displeased with me..." Let us be quick to recognize the grief of His Spirit when we indulge in our carnal ways. May we never have a heart that is so callous that we feel not the pangs of an act of disobedience, the sorrow for sins and shortcomings that God would make us aware of. But let us hear what He says when forgiveness flows from His heart:
"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves..." (Gen. 45:5). Come to Him with a broken and a contrite heart, and then know for sure that He broke that heart of yours only that He might pour in the oil of mercy and grace, and the wine of gladness. Do not indulge in self-condemnation and accusation. For if you do, you are not accusing yourself... you are accusing Him who took your place! Luther said something like this one time (and I cant quote it exactly) ...but when the Tempter came to him and sought to remind him of his former transgressions, he said, "Satan, you think you are going to torment me with my sins? I want you to know that when you bring my former sins to mind, you comfort me with great comfort! For Christ died for sinners! And therefore rather than tormenting me, you give me great comfort and hope!"
Even after this marvelous unveiling of the heart of Joseph, the brethren still had thoughts of accusation coming to them: "I wonder if he really meant it... I wonder if he will take advantage of us now that father has passed away..." And so they sent a message to Joseph, telling him that their father Jacob told them to tell Joseph, that he hoped Joseph would show his brothers mercy, and hold nothing against them. When Joseph got the message, he wept again. There was no such thought in his heart. He longed to forgive and forget. It was a joy for him to forgive. It was healing to his own soul to forgive.
All this clearly reveals that in spite of the marvelous revelation of Josephs love and mercy for them, they still did not know his heart.
Do you find it difficult to receive forgiveness, and to know that you stand perfectly forgiven, and righteous before the throne of Grace? If so, it is because you do not really know His heart.
Do you find it difficult to bestow forgiveness upon others, to genuinely and truly forgive another from your heart? If so, it is because you really have not seen the heart of God.
Furthermore, we are going to discover that as we find grace to let forgiveness FLOW unto others... so in like manner and in like measure will we know the healing of our own hearts, and the cleansing of our own lives. For the cleansing stream of Mercy that we are enabled to minister unto others WILL CLEANSE OUR OWN HEARTS even as it is flowing forth unto others!
I see the New Creation rise,
I hear the speaking blood,
It speaks... polluted nature dies,
Sinks neath the cleansing flood...
The cleansing stream, I see, I see,
I plunge, and O it cleanseth me,
O praise the Lord, it cleanseth me,
It cleanseth me, yes cleanseth me.
It is the stream of life that flows from Calvary, But just as the blood of a slain bird was mingled with pure flowing water, before it could become a water of cleansing, so the efficacy of the blood of Christ has been absorbed into the Spirit of Truth. (See Lev. 14:5; l Jn. 5:6.) Do we understand, then, why it seems so difficult to walk day by day with pure hearts and pure minds? It is simply because we have not made way for the Lordship of the Spirit in our lives, and in our gathering together unto Him! It is going to take a breaking and a melting of Gods people, for this mighty stream of life to be released in the midst of Gods people.
Do we wonder why it seems so difficult to minister real repentance to the people of God? Many are crying, "Repent! Repent!" And this we must do. But beloved it is going to take a prophetic anointing such as Joseph had, and such as John the Baptist had, if the hearts of Gods erring ones are going to be unveiled. And it is going to take the Lordship of Gods Spirit in our midst, if the cleansing Stream of repentance is going to be released.
How shall we minister repentance, and brokenness of heart to others, if we have not experienced it in our own lives? How helpless we are, Lord, unless you continue to search us out, and gaze upon us with those penetrating, searching eyes of your Spirit! Look upon us, we pray, as You looked at Peter, as You looked at Moses, as You looked at John on Patmos, as You looked at Isaiah, as You looked at Saul of Tarsus... that we too might know the transforming work of the Spirit of God in our lives!
I do not know who composed the following lines, but may it be the longing and the prayer of us all:
What has stripped the seeming beauty
From these idols of the earth?
Not the sense of right or duty,
But the sight of nobler birth.
Not the crushing of those idols,
With its bitter pain and smart,
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.
Tis the look that melted Peter,
Tis the face that Stephen saw,
Tis the heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.
Draw, and win, and fill completely,
Till the cup oerflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols,
Who have companied with Him?
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