BEAUTY FOR ASHES PART II
A WAY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS
George H. Warnock
First Printing: June, 1986
Second Printing: October, 1987
Third Printing: August, 1992 (Third Printing Printed in the U.S.A.)
Printed by: Pinecrest Publications Salisbury Center, NY 13454
"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19
C O N T E N T SIntroduction
See away mapChapter 1: The Wilderness Of The Red Sea
"Hemmed In"Chapter 2: The Wilderness Of Shur
"Bitter And Sweet"Chapter 3: The Wilderness Of Sin
"Bread From Heaven"Chapter 4: The Wilderness Of Sinai
"Be Ye Holy... For I Am Holy"Chapter 5: The Wilderness Of Paran
"The Purging Of Our Desires"Chapter 6: The Wilderness Of Zin
"Tragedy And Triumph"Chapter 7: Conflicts Of The New Generation Chapter 8: The Heavenly Canaan
In this writing we want to explore the wilderness areas through which the children of Israel had to travel, as they came out of the land of Egypt, and made their way toward the land of Canaan, the Land of Promise, the Land of Fruitfulness. Our purpose, of course, is to discover the Way of the Lord for us; for what happened to them, though very literal and very natural, was but a picture and shadow of our walk with the Lord, as we too seek to come away from the old life of sin and bondage, and enter into a fruitful walk with the Lord. In all the way that they travelled, and in all the experiences which they had to endure by the leading of the Lord, they were enacting a pattern of conduct that would be recorded in holy Scripture as an example and type of Gods people today. Not that we are supposed to follow their example, but to learn from it. For it is clear that they utterly failed the Lord in many, many ways, so that the first generation of the redeemed people did not enter the Land of Promise. Nevertheless, in their conduct in the wilderness God was actually providing a picture for us today, so that we might learn from their mistakes.
"Now these things were our examples, TO THE INTENT we should NOT lust after evil things, as they also lusted" (1 Cor. 10:6). And the apostle goes on to enlarge upon this, by describing the many calamities that came upon the people of God because of their idolatry, their immorality, their tempting of Christ, and their much murmuring. Then he tells us that all these things happened to them as a warning and as an admonishment to us, so that we would NOT fall into the same tragic things that they did. And so their journey through the wilderness was not intended to be a pattern for you and I to follow, but a warning to Gods people of the dangers that accompany the wilderness life, and Gods provision for making us to be an overcoming people. We are to learn from their experiences, and so avoid making the same mistakes they made.
But we are slow to learn from the mistakes of another. Human nature is just that way. Usually we have to learn the hard way. But as we do, it is good that we can look into the Scriptures, and into the wilderness episode, and discover Gods faithfulness in and through it all, and His pattern of deliverance for an erring people.
For we too are on a journey. It is good if we can recognize that. We have not been redeemed just to cross the Red Sea and sing the victory song of deliverance from the bondage of Pharaoh. This is but the first step. It is but the beginning of a journey, a SPIRITUAL JOURNEY, through the wastelands of our old carnal nature, and into the fruitfulness of the Canaan life of the Spirit.
And so Moses reminded the people: "He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in, to give us the land which He sware unto our fathers" (Deut. 6:23).
The wilderness, then, becomes the place of PREPARATION, and the place of TRANSITION, as we relinquish the old life of fleshly bondage, and enter into the realm of our spiritual heritage. It was never intended of the Lord that we should linger all our days in captivity to the wild, untamed nature of the old life. But in every resting place that God has ordained on this Journey from Egypt to Canaan we are to learn more and more of Him, and allow Him to make in our wilderness nature a garden plot for the sowing and the planting of the good seed of the Word of God, that He Himself might be glorified in the fruit of the Spirit that He desires to bring forth from our lives.
Therefore let us learn to see the Journey in this light. As we do we will understand and appreciate the grace of God that brings us step by step through the tangled maze of life. WE OURSELVES ARE THAT WILDERNESS. Our own fleshly, natural lives are the wild, untamed areas that God is dealing with. And when we recognize this, may we find grace to stop blaming God and murmuring against Him when we come into fretful and disagreeable circumstances. Why do you do this to me, Lord? It is for my discipline, and for His glory, that He does it. I needed it, otherwise He would not have allowed it. In that grievous circumstance that God allowed, He was merely revealing the wild, untamed nature that was there in my old life, for the purpose of dealing with it and bringing forth the attributes of His own heart. And the murmuring and the complaining that we manifest simply reveal how deep-rooted the old life really is, and how slow we are to recognize it.
In other words, God intends that every situation that He brings us into will serve as a graving tool, a chisel, a refiners fire, that will change us, transform us, and consume those carnal desires that are hindering the flowing of the life of Christ through us, and retarding our growth in the Spirit.
In the journeyings of the children of Israel there were several wilderness areas through which they must pass; and in each of these areas God had something specific in mind as He sought to PREPARE their hearts for the inheritance that lay before them. God must have a PREPARED PEOPLE for that PREPARED PLACE. He does not thrust us thoughtlessly into some disagreeable circumstance in order to harass and torment us. It is rather to PREPARE us for the life of victory and of fruitfulness in the realm of the Spirit. It is our reaction to Gods dealings with us that brings such desolation and turmoil to our hearts and minds. What assurance and what hope this would give us if we could only recognize that in every devastating experience of life God is simply preparing our hearts for great conquests and fruitfulness in the days that lie ahead, in the heritage of Canaan. And if we are prepared to truly recognize this wonder-working principle in our lives, we are going to discover what God meant when He said, "I go before you to search out a resting place for you..."
MAP OF THE APPROXIMATE ROUTE OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
THE WILDERNESS OF THE RED SEA
The Long Way Around
"And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: but God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea...." (Ex. 13:17-18).
This is a day of "fast" things: fast foods, fast trains, fast cars, fast planes, fast pleasures, fast communications. But Gods way into the life of the Spirit is still the long way around. Many do not think so, and there are many in the Church who deride the thought of exercising "patience" in order to win the race that is set before us. "Let us run WITH PATIENCE.. ." may sound a little contradictory to a man in a race; but it remains Gods way of winning "the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). Gods direct route to Canaan life is the long-way-around. There may seem to be a shorter way, a more direct way, and many continue to explore that route, only to end up rolling in the dust. "God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near..." Now the word "Philistine" comes from a word meaning "to roll in the dust, to wallow." And though it is a well-beaten pathway, as it was in the days of Israel, and though it would seem to lead in a more direct route to the land of our inheritance, it will leave the one who travels this road wallowing in the dust. And why? Because there is nothing in common with the way of the Philistines and the way of God. The Philistine spirit is that spirit of the world, of the natural man, that knows nothing of the Spirit of God. But because it is a well-worn pathway, and because it seems to be leading in the general direction of our pursuit for God, it is enticing to the natural mind. It is the logical approach to the things of God. It is the positive, the most direct approach to things spiritual. But it leaves you wallowing in the dust of the old Adamic life, rather than soaring into the heights of the Spirit of God.
"You do not have to take that long, uncharted, entangled way into the things of God... We can show you a simpler way... We can point you to a shortcut... You can know the joy of Canaan living without all the distress of becoming entangled in the wilderness." This is the reasoning and counsel of the natural mind.
But the fact remains, we did not choose the wilderness way. We simply chose to go Gods way. It is He who goes before--by day in a pillar of cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire--to give direction and light for the journey. It is by the Light of His Glory that we find ourselves entangled in the wilderness. He leads us this way that He might have all the glory, and that our enemies might be consumed in the very midst of our own perplexity and dismay. For it is only when we find ourselves "hemmed in," with no place to go, that we are inclined to go to God for help. This is why He hems us in... that we might flee into His arms. God knows the Enemy will say, "They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in" (Ex. 14:3). And so God deliberately sets a trap for the Enemy by bringing us into that place where we have no other recourse, but in God alone. As long as there is room for the heart and mind of man to calculate and plan his own deliverance, God is left out of the picture. We dont really need Him, or so we think. But if we are followers of the Cloud, God will lead us into areas of utter hopelessness and despair, that we might prove Him to be the God who makes a way where there is no way, and a path in the mighty waters...
"Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known" (Ps. 77:19).
"The LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters" (Isa. 43:16).
People of God, beware of the shortcuts. There are many that are offered in this day and age, shortcuts to true spiritual life and progress, but they will not bring you there. You may try to find an easy way into spiritual gift and blessing. You may learn how to get, and how to operate spiritual gifts the easy way, without total commitment, without waiting upon God, but sooner or later they will fade away. You may think you have discovered a secure and safe covering in some church structure or institution, assuring yourself that you are being spared the pangs of finding your own way in the entangled wildernesses of life. You feel that if you trust in certain leaders, in certain apostles and prophets, in a certain "New Testament Church Order," that it is a much safer, much easier pathway. But sooner or later you are going to discover that the rest and comfort you sought in sheltered areas of this nature, are nothing less than the bondage of Babylonish systems; and you will discover that this is far more distressing and more captivating than the way of the Lord from which you sought to escape. When you see the "wars of the Philistines"--the striving for lordship, the striving for power and authority and for a place of preeminence--your hearts will become discouraged, and you will wonder why you ever chose to walk in that kind of a pathway. If we would examine our hearts, we might discover that what we are really looking for is some kind of a religious system that will make it easy for us or for our children. We want to shrug off the heavy burden that is associated with finding God for ourselves by way of total commitment to Him. So when someone offers us a place of rest in some kind of a structure that promises clear direction, we are quick to grasp it. God does want us to have fellowship with one another in Christ; but there is no true fellowship except as "we walk in the Light." And in our searching after God, there is no such thing as immunity to the trials and struggles and heart-searchings and perplexities that have always been the appointed lot of any man or woman who seeks to come into a living, vital relationship with the Lord.
The Bones Of Joseph
"And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he (Joseph) had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you" (Ex. 13:19).
Surely it would matter nothing to Joseph as to what happened to his bones. This would pose no problem to the God of resurrection life whom he served while he was alive. But in the bones of Joseph God would provide for the generation yet to be born, a living witness to the faithfulness of the covenant-keeping God.
Joseph in his life was a testimony to the faithfulness of God--a living testimony that the round-about-way through the wilderness was Gods direct route to the land of fruitfulness. He had proved and manifested to the people of God that in obeying Him and holding to the Vision that God had given, this was Gods direct highway to the Throne. But Joseph had been dead about 360 years, and the generation about whom Joseph prophesied when he said, "God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence" (Gen. 50:25), that very privileged generation that Joseph spoke about was now alive, and given the privilege and the opportunity of walking in the visitation that God had promised. He who was a living testimony to the faithfulness of God in his life, was now a living testimony to the faithfulness of God in his death. His very bones bore witness to the faithfulness of the God he served. Everywhere they would travel the people of God had a "living" witness in the presence of the bones of Joseph; for Joseph had prophesied that this day of visitation would come. Everywhere they would travel in this "waste and howling wilderness" Joseph was there with them: encouraging, confirming, prophesying, declaring... the faithfulness of God. "I said this was going to happen... I told you God would be faithful to deliver you... I prophesied that God would bring you to a land of fruitfulness. Do not lose heart now. I proved when I was alive that in due season the God who gave the vision would be faithful to fulfill it. Let not the weariness of the way, the heat and the drought, the scorpions and the fiery serpents of this desert land cause your hearts to murmur and complain. He is faithful that promised, and He will do it."
Is it not strange how we can carry around with us the bones of a dead prophet, and still not believe what that prophet said? Is it not strange that we can idolize Gods chosen ones of a past day, and build their sepulchers, and yet not pay heed to the Word that they spoke when they lived?
Time and time again we are going to witness unbelief and failure in the people of God; and yet all the while they were carefully preserving the bones of Joseph and carrying them from one camping place to the next... a persistent reminder to them of Gods utter faithfulness, and of their own unbelieving hearts.
Baptism In The Cloud
"And the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them" (Ex. 14:19).
Their entanglement in the wilderness was very grievous to them, but God led them this way for His own glory. One of the most glorious facts of the whole wilderness episode was the fact of Gods faithfulness in the hour of the unfaithfulness of His people. Their hearts were smitten with fear and unbelief when they saw themselves entangled in the wilderness with the hosts of Pharaoh pursuing them; and they cried to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?" (Ex. 14:11). But God knew what He was doing. Suddenly the pillar of Cloud which had been leading the way moved from the front of the hosts of Israel to the rear, passing through the host and immersing them in the Cloud of Glory. He who was their Guide was now their Protector and their Defense against their enemies. His glory became their Light throughout the darkness of the night; and that same glory became DARKNESS and NIGHT to the enemies of God.
We need to remember these principles, in this day when fear has taken hold of all the inhabitants of the earth... when all about us is darkness and night. God said it would be that way. And He promised, moreover, that it would be in that very hour of darkness that His glory would shine forth upon His people:
"For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee" (Isa. 60:2).
Baptized into the Cloud of His presence and of His glory, the people of God shall radiate the very Light of God Himself. Not only that, but the Light in which they dwell and in which they walk, shall make them to be totally triumphant over all the powers of darkness that shall engulf the world about them. Why do some people imagine that there is a safe hiding place somewhere up there in space? Especially in this space age? Our hiding place is in God alone, and His glory shall be our defense, and the only defense we need:
"And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence" (Isa. 4:5).
The Song Of Moses
"Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea" (Ex. 15:1).
It was a song of victory, a song that bore witness to the faithfulness and the wisdom of God who had led them into wilderness entanglements. If we could only recognize this... if we could only know... that God has ordained a Song of Triumph for every wilderness entanglement... what hope and assurance it would give us as we tread the unknown way! If we could only know that every entanglement in our walk of faith is intended of the Lord to bring defeat to our enemies, what hope and courage this would inspire in our hearts!
And then when God proves His faithfulness in swallowing up our enemies in the Red Sea, what hope and confidence this ought to give us for the next phase of our wilderness testing and trial! For let us be assured, this is but the first phase of our spiritual journey unto the heart of God. There are many more. "How many?" some would ask. And the answer is: Just as many as it will require for God to tame our wilderness nature, and to till and cultivate the soil of our hearts. Just as many as God may deem necessary to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah concerning His people:
"The wilderness and the solitary place Shall be glad for them; And the desert shall rejoice, And blossom as the rose" (Isa. 35:1).
For let us never forget this, that the wilderness through which we are journeying is a spiritual journey unto the heart of God; and it is through the wilderness areas of our own natural and carnal hearts that God is leading us unto a place of REST in the bosom of God. How then can we say, "Lord, leave us alone... we have had enough of the wilderness and the solitary place," if we still know not the rejoicing of the desert, and the blossoming of the rose in our lives? Do we really want God to leave us where we are, redeemed from the bondage of sin and the world, but still very much in captivity to the bondage of our own fleshly natures? And is it not a matter of great disappointment to us when we discover, upon forsaking the world and its bondage, that we are still very much in bondage to our own selves, our own hearts, our own ways? How hopeless and helpless we feel when, having known what it is to be redeemed by the blood of the Passover Lamb, we discover that we are still languishing in areas of captivity to self, to the carnal mind, to the ways of the flesh!
And how wonderful it is when we discover that God hid a lot of this from us, and allowed us to consolidate our position on the redeemed side of the Red Sea, before He began to deal with the wilderness areas of our own lives!
And so the Song of Moses (and this is something that so few seem to recognize) gives hope and confidence for the land of Canaan fruitfulness, even as it exults in the God who destroyed Pharaoh and his hosts:
"Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them
In the mountain of Thine inheritance,
In the place, O LORD, which Thou bast made
For Thee to dwell in,
In the Sanctuary, O Lord,
Which Thy hands have established" (Ex. 15:17).
So it is that we must pass through the Red Sea of baptism as outlined in Romans 6, then through the wilderness of conflict with the "self-life" in Romans 7, and INTO the glorious liberty of the mountain of His inheritance in Romans 8. The solitary place of Romans 7 gives way to the corporate expression and the corporate inheritance of Romans 8. The "I," "Myself," and "Me" of Romans 7, as the renewed man of God struggles against the tide of his own carnal desires, is surrendered and swallowed up in the victory of the people of God in whom He dwells in corporate fullness, in His own Sanctuary, His very own inheritance. No longer is it the untamed wilderness of selfish, fleshly striving; but now it is the cultivated and fruitful land of Gods own -Garden-weeded, tilled, and ordered, and cared for by the great Husband man, to be the Garden and the Inheritance of His own delight and pleasure: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus bath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:2-4).
And I am confident that as we come into this realm of abiding fullness in Christ, that it is going to be JUST AS EASY, JUST AS SIMPLE, JUST AS NATURAL AND SPONTANEOUS FOR US TO WALK IN THE SPIRIT AND TO ABIDE IN HIS PRESENCE AS IT WAS IN FORMER DAYS TO WALK IN THE ENTANGLEMENTS OF OUR OWN WILDERNESS LIFE AND IN THE BONDAGE OF THE FLESH!
Do we question this? Then we are saying in effect that in our fleshly striving we are able to produce more power and energy than the Spirit of God can. We are confessing that the "law of sin and death" is really of greater power than the "Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus."
THE WILDERNESS OF SHUR
"Bitter And Sweet"
The Waters Of Marah
"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter..." (Ex. 15:23).
After crossing the Red Sea, the Cloud of God began to turn in a southerly direction, along the western edge of the Peninsula of Sinai. For three days they travelled into the wilderness, and found no water. On and on they travelled, and suddenly they came upon a pool of water. But soon their hopes were dashed as they stooped to drink and found that the waters were "bitter." Rather than quenching their thirst, the bitter waters merely aggravated their souls more severely than ever. One of the most tragic things about Israels journey through the wilderness was the fact that they could never seem to come to that place where they recognized the faithfulness of their God. Over and over again they witnessed His mighty working and delivering power; but never did they learn His ways, and have the assurance of His ever-abiding faithfulness. I think we have all been inclined to sympathize with the children of Israel in all of their trials, because we want to sympathize with ourselves. After all, God was leading them this way, as a picture and as an example for us. Now let us be assured of this: God does not give His chosen ones bitter waters to drink. Then why does He lead them to Marah, if He does not want them to drink of its waters? God leads His people to Marah because He must reveal the condition of our heart if He is going to be able to deal with it. And one of the first things we have to discover in our journey, is that by nature we are filled with bitterness... and God wants to deal with that. He wants us to discover His way of rooting out the bitterness that is there. The word "Marah" means "bitterness"; and so God leads us to Marah, to a place of discovery. He leads us to Marah so we can discover the inherent bitterness of our fallen nature, and show us how to deal with it.
We come into this world in a state of bitterness, and we grow up in that state. All the while we may be quite oblivious to the fact that the bitterness, the envy, the strife, the quarreling, the jealousies, are things that are "earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3:15). When we turn to God these things have to be uprooted from our lives. Few there are, it seems, who care about dealing with the old life once they have discovered the new. Like the people James writes about, we think it to be normal to let the tongue remain in its wild, untamed state; and to let the new water of life of which we have partaken, flow forth from our lives intermingled with the bitter fountains of the old nature:
"But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" (James 3:8,10-11).
We see the sweet and the bitter everywhere, and think it to be normal. We are slow to believe that God wants the "bitter" to be so completely dealt with that all those jealousies, envyings, strivings, ill-feelings, resentments, and hardness of heart, all are to be submitted to the work of the Cross, that the fountains of our life might be wholly in God, that all our springs might be in Zion.
So let us not be disturbed and frustrated when we come to our Marah, to the place of Discovery, the place of Uncovering, where God begins to reveal the bitterness of our hearts. It did not begin when we came to Marah. It began at birth... at our natural birth. We enter this world with a cry of pain and resentment. But now that God has brought forth a new spring of life within us, He wants to deal with the old... that the fountains issuing forth from our lives might henceforth be rivers of refreshing, uncontaminated with the salty waters of the old life. What is the solution? It is in another Discovery... the discovery of a certain Tree.
Lord, Shew Us The Tree!
"And he [Moses] cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet..." (Ex. 15:25).
When we come to Marah, beloved, we need to pray this prayer, "Lord, show me the Tree!" There is a Tree growing on the banks of every Marah, if we will but make the effort to find it; and we will need the help of the Lord to make this discovery. He will be faithful to show it to us, if we really want to find it. When He does, let us be quick to cut it down, and cast it into the waters. You will have to discover this Tree for yourself; because for every Marah there is an individual Tree. Yet they are all of one likeness. It is the Tree of His Cross; but for you and for me there is a very individual application of that Cross. Your Cross is tailor-made for your needs, and so I cannot tell you explicitly what may be involved, except that it will involve a humbling of yourself before God or before your neighbor. It may involve a confession of some hurt that you are nursing, You may be required to ask the forgiveness of another. Or you may be required to forgive one who has harmed you. For if indeed you can be harmed, there is a Marah in your nature that must be sweetened. And you may discover that the bitterness of your heart is not because of what another has done to you, but because you are not able to forgive. Once you find the grace to forgive, you are going to discover that suddenly the waters are sweetened... not because your neighbor has changed, but because you have changed. Very likely when your neighbor sees that you have changed, he also will be changed. Forgiveness may not be released easily, but if you seek the Lord earnestly, you will discover the Tree.
You may have to start praying for the one that has misused you, misunderstood you, spoken evil against you. As you continue at this, the Lord may show you that the bitterness you have known is the result of drinking waters our of the cistern of your own heart... and that the more you drank of it, the more bitter you became. And all the while you have been blaming your neighbor, or blaming God. "God, why are you doing this to me?" Why is God doing this to you? Perhaps it may be His way of revealing to you the bitterness of your heart, that you might discover the Tree.
But you will have to cut it down, and throw it into the waters. God will not do this for you; but He will show you how to do it. You may not know how to forgive, but you can start by recognizing your lack of grace, and asking God for help. As you continue to pray for the one who has "hurt" you, the more you will come to recognize the unforgiving nature that you have, so that eventually you will think less of yourself and more highly of your brother.
This could lead to the place where you almost forget the hurts that you have received from your brother, and you begin to reflect upon the incurable state of your own heart. You may soon begin to indulge in self-accusation and personal guilt. At least, the problem has been narrowed down to the confines of your own heart: "I am the problem." But let the Tree continue to do its work in the bitter waters of your Marah until you can exult in the Tree upon which our Lord and Savior died for our cleansing.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9).
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a Tree" (Gal. 3:13).
He became a Curse, that you might no longer curse your brother, or even curse yourself!
Marah Becomes A Place Of Health
"There [at Marah] He made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there He proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I WILL PUT NONE OF THESE DISEASES UPON THEE, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I AM THE LORD THAT HEALETH THEE" (Ex. l5:25-26).
It was at the bitter waters of Marah that God came forth with the covenant of healing, of health, and of life. How can we expect health and life to flow in the midst of Gods people, as long as we continue to drink from bitter waters? As long as the old nature and the new are encouraged to flow together from the Temple of God? As long as the people of God are taught to forget these admonitions of the Lord to purge their hearts and minds completely from every trace of the old carnal nature, until Christ and Christ alone flows forth in life-giving streams from the House of God?
Let me assure you, beloved, when Gods people earnestly seek God for the Tree that will bring crucifixion and death to the old carnal life, and the streams of bitterness that flow from the heart are replaced with streams of forgiveness, of mercy, of kindness, of gentleness, and of LOVE, there is going to be released a stream of physical and spiritual healing in the House of God; and we are going to be delivered from the diseases of this old world.
Elim, The Place Of Strength
"And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters" (Ex. 15:27).
"Elim" comes from a word signifying "strength." After the bitter experiences of Marah, the faithful God leads His people to Elim, a place of strength, a place of refreshing waters, a place of victory and blessing. It would be nice to camp here indefinitely; but the journey is far from complete. We must continue on our way farther, and farther to the south. Canaan is over there on our left; but somehow the Lord says, "Continue to go southward..." And as we travel on, we just know that we are getting farther and farther away from the Land of Promise. Why does the Lord deliberately lead us the long-way-around? And why is it that with every encampment we are subjected to more and more devastation? It is because God is really portraying His care and concern toward His people. Our lives are the untamed wilderness areas that He is dealing with, and we are slow to comprehend and understand the work that He must yet perform in our lives, in order to bring forth the Beauty of the Lord.
THE WILDERNESS OF SIN
"Bread From Heaven"
"And all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 16:1).
They had been on the road one month. Their supply of food was running out. Once again the evil of their hearts was revealed; and the faithfulness of their God during the past month was forgotten. But God knew what He would do. "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you... that I may prove them..." (Ex. 16:4). Notice this, that in every way the Lord was leading them, He was "proving" them. He was testing them to reveal the inherent corruption of their nature, and at the same time to show them His way for them, and His own faithfulness. Marah was to prove them; and now this strange bread from heaven was to prove them. To supply their need, yes; but it was more. It was to test them, to try them, to prove them. It is not difficult for us to get Gods blessings. God will continue to bless His people; but He wants to test us and to prove us, whether or not we can qualify for the Land of Canaan. There are many who experience the blessings of God who will continue to reject any attempt of the Lord to try them and to prove them. Yet this is required of the people who are going to qualify for the conquest of Canaan. We will have much more to say about the Manna when we come to the Wilderness of Paran. But right here we want to emphasize that this miraculous bread from Heaven, this food that is called "The Corn of Heaven," and "Angels Food," was some thing that supplied their need in spirit, soul, and body; but it fell short of satisfying every desire of their hearts. God designed it that way; for God must deal with the undisciplined desire of His people to get... and get... and get, if He is going to prepare them for the Life in the Spirit, which is a life of..... giving ...giving....
This precious food could not be stored up, and if they tried to do so, it bred worms and stank. Yet there was always sufficient for every need, for God sent a fresh supply every morning. They simply had to gather it, according as they had need; and if some happened to gather more than they needed, then the surplus was shared with those who did not gather enough. Incidentally, it is the "Manna principle" that has become the New Testament principle of giving and sharing:
"But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: THAT THERE MAY BE EQUALITY: as it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack" (2 Cor. 8:14-15).
God has much work to do in His people yet, to bring us to that kind of "equality" that He desires in the New Covenant people; and here it is set forth in the Manna principle. God will continue to discipline the Canaan-bound people until they have learned to use what God has provided for their daily needs, and to make the rest available to those who stand in need. The true disciples of the Lord must be prepared to FORSAKE ALL in order to be His disciples. And they will do it gladly... not because there is some apostle or prophet or ecclesiastical structure requiring it, but because in their walk with the Lord, and in their pursuit of the Land of Fruitfulness, they are going to discover that "It is more blessed to give than to receive.
THE WILDERNESS OF SIN
"Be Ye Holy, For I Am Holy"
"And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the Wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink" (Ex. 17:1).
They are still southward-bound... still travelling farther and farther away from Canaan. For God must prove them and prepare their hearts still further, before they are ready to turn northward to Canaan.
Massah And Meribali
No water at Rephidim. God provided them with food from heaven; but now they are again without water, and ready to stone Moses. God has the answer to every physical and spiritual need, and the only reason He keeps us waiting is to prove us and try us, to know whether we will believe Him or not. Moses was told to stand upon a rock in Horeb (which means "a parched place"), to smite the rock with his rod, and God promised the waters would gush forth in refreshing, flowing streams.
"And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?" (Ex. 17:7).
Why is it that we have to make a Massah and a Meribah out of every place of Gods provision, just because God seems to act so slowly, and to be silent when we think we need Him most? Why do we not allow the Lord to call the experiences of life through which we must pass by such names as "Living Waters"... "Peace and Rest"... "Fountain of Living Streams"... Instead, we murmur and complain, and God is faithful to come on the scene in answer to our prayers, but He is compelled to call our place of failure by such names as these: Massah, which means "testing, temptation" or, Meribah, which means "contention, confrontation, strife."
And when God says our place of failure was Massah and Meribah, He is not saying it was the place where He tested us. He is saying rather that in the place where He sought to test us and prove us we turned it about and TESTED GOD AND CONTENDED WITH GOD AND PROVED GOD... and this is what saddens His heart. Massah and Meribah have therefore become a description of their whole way of life throughout their forty year journey in the wilderness. And when the Psalmist lifts his voice to praise and exalt the Rock of his salvation... and then bows his knee in worship before the LORD his Maker... very abruptly his praise and his worship become, in a spirit of prophecy, a very solemn warning to the people of God, who know how to praise and worship, but whose hearts are prone to hardness and rebellion:
"To day if ye will hear His voice,
Harden not your heart,
As in the provocation [as at Meribah],
And as in the day of temptation
In the wilderness [as at Massab]:
When your fathers tempted Me,
Proved Me, and saw My work" (Ps. 95:7-9).
This is a day when the congregations of the Lord have a know-how approach to God; and worship and praise has in many, many cases become a system, a "do-it-this-way" approach... and when it is all over, the heart remains as hard and as cold toward God as ever. There is an "art" in praise, an "art" in worship, an "art" in music, and an "art" in dancing before the Lord. And how little of it leads to true submission and worship at the feet of Him who is our Lord and Maker. And if you feel that in being blessed, and in partaking of much spiritual gift and provision you are somehow His specially favored people, listen to these solemn words at the end of this beautiful Song of Praise:
"Forty years long was I grieved
With this generation, and said,
It is a people that do ERR IN THEIR HEART,
AND THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN MY WAYS:
UNTO WHOM I SWARE IN MY WRATH
THAT THEY SHOULD NOT ENTER INTO MY REST" (Ps. 95:10-11).
Here was a people who were favored above all nations on the face of the earth. They beheld miracle after miracle every day of their lives. Water miraculously flowed forth from the Rock to quench their thirst. Manna rained down from heaven every day to satisfy their every need. The Cloud of Glory abode upon their Tabernacle by day and by night for forty years....
BUT IN AND THROUGH IT ALL THEY NEVER CAME TO KNOW GOD!
AND GOD TESTIFIED THAT THEY WERE A GRIEF TO HIS HEART!
These are frightening observations. But we need to consider these things very solemnly in this day and hour when the blessing of God upon His people is considered to be His seal of approval. This is not Old Covenant theology. This is New Covenant teaching, hidden away in the types and shadows of the Old. Listen to Pauls commentary on this episode in the wilderness: "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the Cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the Cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them [or, the most of them] God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness" (1 Cor. 10:1-5).
They were "overthrown in the wilderness" despite the fact that they had partaken of all these manifold blessings. In the very midst of their blessings, they failed to walk in obedience, and failed to enter the Land of Promise. And the apostle Paul admonishes us to learn from their mistakes, for they were types and shadows of the people of God living in this New Covenant era. (See 1 Cor. 10:11-12.)
Sinai, The Holy Mountain Of God
"In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the Wilderness of Sinai" (Ex. 19:1).
Here they must abide approximately eleven months, camping at the foot of the holy mountain of God, and becoming acquainted with His righteous and holy laws and ordinances. Here they would build the Tabernacle, that God Himself might dwell among them. Canaan lay before them, and there was much warfare to be accomplished, but God must have a holy people to war against the unholy nations, and to enter that holy realm which Moses had already described as "the mountain of Thine inheritance... the place, O LORD, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in... the Sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established" (Ex. 15:17).
In this day and age this matter of holiness is usually equated with "legalism." We know that we are living in the Day of Grace. But what is often overlooked is that the Grace of God came into being in order that the righteousness and the holiness which God required in the Old Covenant, might now be PROVIDED in the New. The reason God did away with the Law was because it didnt work. And the New Covenant came into being to work into the hearts and lives of Gods people that quality and character of life that the Old Covenant was helpless to produce. It was "because they continued not in My Covenant" that God saw fit to change it (Heb. 8:9). And the reason we can walk in holiness and righteousness in the New Covenant is simply because God comes into the heart and mind and soul to write His requirements there in the heart and in the mind... once again with a finger of fire, but this time "in fleshy tables of the heart" (2 Cor. 3:3). The New Covenant is not just a new "position" in Grace; it is a WRITING ON THE HEART, AND A WRITING ON THE MIND, AND A KNOWING OF GOD IN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP. It is not just a declaration of what we are in Christ; it is a TRANSITION from the place of condemnation and death into a place of righteousness and life. It is a TRANSFORMATION from a state of spiritual death and darkness into a new state of spiritual life and light. Was God indeed concerned about sheep, and goats, and oxen, and turtledoves, and pigeons, and holy days, and sabbaths, and religious rituals of one kind or another? "Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes?" (1 Cor. 9:9-10). Was He really concerned that we wear a garment of only one kind of material? Or planting our garden with two kinds of vegetables? Not really. But He was giving us principles of New Covenant truth in an Old Covenant setting. In other words, God hates a mixture. He is after heart purity... purity of mind, purity of attitudes. Thats what the Law is all about; and thats what the wilderness is all about. It is a revelation of the heart of His people that God is after... that in seeing ourselves in our total helplessness and hopelessness, we might draw close to Him and partake of His grace. They confidently promised God that they would do everything He said. God knew it wasnt in their heart to do it, and we hear Him lamenting... "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always..." (Deut. 5:29). But even before Moses passes off the scene he foresees the day when God would bring forth the New Covenant:
"And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live" (Deut. 30:6).
This is the whole substance and intent of the Law, as Jesus observed. (See Matt. 22:37-40.)
Gods Peculiar Treasure
"Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles wings, and brought you unto Myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:4-6).
Israel could not attain to this; but it has been reserved for the New Covenant people: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light" (1 Pet. 2:9).
Who are these people who are Gods special treasure, His peculiar people?
"Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name. AND THEY SHALL BE MINE, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels [or, my special treasure]..." (Mal. 3:16-17).
They are the ones who have a wholesome, godly fear of the Lord of all creation... a fear that inspires love and devotion and commitment, even unto death. When God speaks they listen. But they do more--they obey. They seek to walk in His ways. They tremble at His Word. They speak often one to another, not in idle chitchat, but in fellowship, thinking upon His Name, meditating of His wondrous works, encouraging and edifying one another--teaching, exhorting, admonishing one another in the fear of the LORD. They are wholly occupied with Him, and therefore He is wholly occupied with them:
"If a 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" (Jn. 14:23).
The "peculiar people" are not "peculiar" because they do foolish things or unseemly things. The word has the sense of a "hidden treasure"... something so precious it is concealed, and hidden from the eyes of men... something special, something superlative. They are people that are unknown, and yet "well known." For they may pass their days in this life in obscurity, scarcely known or recognized in the affairs of men. But they are "well known" in heavenly places, the subject of conversation and wonder among the celestial hosts. They are weak and insignificant in themselves... can boast of no special endowments in the natural... very ordinary and unassuming. Yet somehow without great natural ability and with no claims to any particular achievements, they love God with an intensity that sets them apart in a special place in His heart... a special habitation for the abode of Father and Son.
"Leviticus"... Before "Numbers"
We are always in a hurry to get to our destination; and God is much more desirous to bring us there than we are. But He has taught us that...
"An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed" (Prov. 20:21). And so for almost a year the Lord keeps the children of Israel at Sinai, to prepare them for the journey NORTHWARD to Canaan. This is what the book of Leviticus is all about. It is the book of the Holiness of God, and the Holiness of His people. The word "holy" and "sanctify" are used well over one hundred times in Leviticus alone. In all the sacrifices, in all the ordinances, in all the judgments that God decreed, He is reflecting the holiness of His nature, and the desire for holiness in His people.
"Numbers" follows Leviticus; for in the book of Numbers the people of the Lord are numbered and set in orderly array, in preparation for the conquest of Canaan. But we must become acquainted with the awesomeness of our God, and learn to "tremble at His word" if we are going to be a conquering people. Would to God that the Church of this hour which is so zealous for warfare could understand this. The Battle is not ours but Gods; and if we do not learn to fear before Him, and partake of His Holiness and of His character and nature, we are not going to war a good warfare against the hosts of evil that are arrayed against us. Would God that His people could understand that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual, and that...
We overcome evil with good...
We overcome hatred with love...
We overcome lawlessness with obedience ...
We overcome error and deceit with Truth....
If we understood this, then we would concentrate on these kinds of weapons, rather than upon all manner of humanly devised strategies and gimmicks and forms of entertainment. And so we must remain here at the foot of the Holy Mount, to learn His ways, before we are going to be numbered for Battle.
To learn about the Covenant that is written upon our hearts with Gods holy finger of fire...
To know Gods wrath against the golden calf, and have our idolatrous hearts smitten with His righteous judgments...To know the zeal of the Lord, and the zeal of His priests, to cleanse the camp of God from all its idolatry...
To partake of priestly concern for Gods people, that we might, as Moses did, prevail upon God to "turn from His fierce wrath, and repent of the evil" that He has purposed, and in the midst of His wrath, to remember mercy...
To set our hearts upon building the Tabernacle of God; yet even as we do, to know that "Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that; build it"...
To cry unto God as Moses did, "I beseech Thee, O LORD, SHEW ME THY GLORY." For it is only in beholding His glory, and radiating His glory, that we shall be able to minister life and truth to the people of God.
Then does the LORD say, "Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: turn you, and take your journey..." (Deut. 1:6-7).
Time To Turn North
The song writer speaks of the "north wind" and the "south wind" that God sends upon His people. And so after coming out of Egypt the north wind, as it were, drove them farther and farther away from their goal. But now it is time for the south wind to blow, and to urge them northward to the land of their inheritance:
"Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof might flow out" (Song 4:16).
The rule of the Cloud is still the rule by which they must move forward into Canaan. But now the holy fire of God rests upon the Tabernacle. Now the holy fire of God is associated with the people of God, to consume their enemies.
THE WILDERNESS OF PARAN
"The Purging Of Our Desires"
"And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony. And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran" (Num. 10:11-12).
The people of God had been "numbered" for battle, and set in battle-array, and were now moving forward to take the Land and to destroy the enemies of God. For the journey northward there was a new song, a Battle Song... "Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee" (Num. 10:35).
Three days they travelled forth into the Wilderness of Paran, the Cloud of God going before them, "to search out a resting place for them" (Num. 10:33). Let us bear this in mind: it was a place of Rest that God had prepared for them; but once again, because of their disobedience, the place of Rest became a place of desolation.
Taberah... Judgment By Fire
"And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and His anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them" (Num. 11:1). Gods holy fire was going before them to consume their enemies; but their complaining hearts caused the "fire of the LORD" to burn the people in the very camp of God.
John the Baptist tells us that the "Fire of God" has been reserved for the chaff of the threshing floor: "Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:12). God grant that His holy fire will remove all the chaff, all the dross, from our lives, that we might be spared His fiery judgments in the Day of His wrath.
"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch" (Mal. 4:1).
God had gone on before His people in His holy fire, to prepare for them a resting place. But to many of them it meant a burning and a consuming, because of their complaining hearts. And the place was called "Taberah," which means "Burning."
We earnestly desire that Gods holy fire comes into our midst, to consume the dross and the chaff; but let us understand it is a very serious thing to have the fire of God in our midst if there is no earnest longing to walk in obedience. Nadab and Abihu discovered that. So did Ananias and Sapphira. We are going to witness some awesome judgments in the House of God, when the Fire of God comes to abide in His Temple.
Tired Of The Manna
"And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?... But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes" (Num. 11:4,6).
The children of Israel had been eating of the Manna for about a year... ever since they came into the Wilderness of Sin. It kept them healthy and strong and vital. But now they wanted something more substantial, something like they had in Egypt. Why was it that this wonderful Bread of God, prepared in Heaven, no longer satisfied them? It was because there was a certain ingredient in the Manna that caused them to hunger, so that in their hunger they might set their hearts upon knowing God, and eating of His living Word.
The Nature Of The Manna
(1) The Manna Raised Many Questions
When the Manna first fell in the Wilderness of Sin the people looked at it in amazement, and said one to another, "What is that? What is that?" And because they never did discover a satisfactory answer to that question, this is what they called it. "Manna" simply means, "What is it?" Moses reply was simply, "This is the Bread which the LORD hath given you to eat" (Ex. 16:15). Dr. Strong calls it a "Whatness," and says the word includes the thought of What? How? When? Why? We who have partaken of the Manna can fully understand these unanswered questions that come to us from time to time:
"HOW long, O Lord, must I suffer this way?"
"WHAT is this all about, Lord?"
"WHY, Lord, do You do this to me?"
"WHEN, O Lord, are you going to hear my prayer?"
These questions, and many like them, are constantly arising from the hearts of the Manna-eating people, and they are valid questions. But we have to be content with Gods reply, which may not answer the question, but it will give us true nourishment and sustain our wilderness life, if we have set our hearts aright. It is the same answer that God has given to the saints of all ages:
"What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter....
"Yet a little while, and he that cometh will come, and will not tarry....
"Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise...."
Gods tardiness in coming to His own in their time of need has been the most grievous thing His chosen ones have ever had to suffer. We eat of the Bread of God, and walk in His ways, only to find that delightful as that Bread might be, it leaves us with so many perplexing thoughts, so many unanswered questions, so many unanswered prayers. There is an ongoing "WHATNESS" about the ways of God. But we have to know that the Manna always falls in the camp of Gods choosing, in the place that He Himself set apart and chose to be our resting place. For true rest is ours even in the time of storm, when we are prepared to forsake our many questions, and confess...
"He knoweth the way that I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).
(2) The Manna Was Prepared In Heaven
Jesus said, "Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven" (John 6:32). Jesus is the true Bread. The Manna in the wilderness was in no sense an ultimate provision. It was a temporary provision for a wilderness people. It was nevertheless sent from heaven to prepare their hearts, that eventually they might partake of the true Bread, the "Hidden Manna," the incorruptible life in the Spirit.
And so it was called "the corn of heaven," and "angels food." Or, as some translate this, "the bread of the mighty." (See Ps. 78:24-25.) For even in that glorious realm of the celestial the heavenly hosts need to partake of life from God. They were created to draw life from Him; and when Lucifer said, "I will be like the Most High," he there and then cut himself off from the source of his glory, the source of his beauty, the source of true life. It is only in utter dependence upon God that any creature in all of Gods creation shall find the strength and the sustenance that will support and sustain his life. In giving them Manna, God was saying, "I must impart to these poor ones in the earth that I have chosen the same kind of food that my celestial hosts are feeding upon. I must give them angels food because they must draw strength from Me, the fountain-head and source of all life and truth. I must give them the bread of the mighty. I must give them the corn of heaven."
(3) The Manna Was Small, Insignificant
And so like the One it represented, it was humble, unassuming, pure, white, and clean. It is spoken of as being like a certain "seed" and like the "hoarfrost." Each person required approximately an "omer" of it for his daily needs, roughly about seven pints. It must have required a lot of hard work to gather it, all those little kernels spread out on the ground like the hoarfrost. They must stoop low in order to gather it. God said the purpose of the wilderness life, and the purpose of the Manna, was to humble them and to prove them. For God was preparing for Himself a special people, and God cannot walk with the proud and the scornful.
(4) The Manna Was Fresh Every Morning
It wasnt something they could store up. It was bread they must gather daily, and bread they must eat daily. It must be gathered in the morning, because the heat of the sun would cause it to melt away. If they tried to store it up, it would breed worms and stink. If Gods Word is to be to us a living Word it must come to us fresh every morning. It is not enough that I can prove its in the Bible, and that God SAID it. We are thankful He SAID it. But we are not going to derive any life from it unless He is SAYING it today. It must be a Word that "proceedeth" out from the mouth of the Lord, if we are going to live by it. Jesus said we were to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," the bread I need for today. I can only partake of His life when He SPEAKS. "To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts..." (Heb. 3:7-8). There are many things in Gods Word that He SAID; and many of these things He WILL SAY again. But if He is not SAYING it, I had better leave it alone. If He is not unfolding, revealing, and bringing life to His people through it, I had better leave it alone.
(5) The Manna Was Not Prepared On The Sabbath
There was no one in Heaven preparing Manna for the people on earth on the sabbath day; and so on the sixth day they were to gather a double portion. Paul says, "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb. 4:9). And the word "rest" here is "sabbath." The people were not to go looking for it, because there would be none. God was "resting" on that day; and because Gods people were partaking of His rest, the manna of the sixth day would be living and vital and healthful. Our Manna is a spiritual food; and our Sabbath is a spiritual Sabbath. Mans working day draws to a close, and the people of the wilderness way must partake of the "double portion" that we might have it for the people of God when they go looking for Manna in the day of Gods rest, and find none. The "double" portion is really for others. Elisha received the double portion, but it was for others. It was for the healing of the waters at Jericho; or to supply refreshing streams of water for the armies of God when they were attacked by the enemy; or it was to multiply the oil for the poverty stricken widow; or to heal the poisoned soup; or to multiply the bread and corn for the sons of the prophets; or to heal the leper; or to cause the borrowed axe to swim; or to bring the dead back to life. Of course it is true that as we give the sabbath bread to others, we partake of it ourselves. For it is in ministering unto others and helping others that we ourselves are fed. Because Jesus was doing the will of the Father as He ministered to the woman of Samaria, He was able to say to the disciples: "I have meat to eat that ye know not of... My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work...."
(6) The Manna Tasted Like Fresh Oil... Like Honey Wafers
Lord give us of that "fresh oil"--oil that is pure and fresh and clean. How much staleness, how much corruption we find in the Bread of God today! "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour..." (Ecc. 10:1). David said, "Thou hast anointed me with fresh oil...." Honey wafers? Bread with the taste of honey? Honey speaks of true knowledge and wisdom... "My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: so shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off" (Prov. 24:13-14).
We need the honey of Gods Word. We need that spiritual wisdom and understanding that will cause us to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." We need to have spiritual wisdom and understanding. In the true wisdom and knowledge that God gives there is a reward, there is hope, there is expectation. Thats what it is for. It is not some far-out doctrine that is not pertinent, not relevant to what God is doing. It is a wilderness provision, to give us hope and expectation, a foretaste of the Promised Land that "flows with milk and honey." But we do not want too much of the honey--not right now. I wish Gods people, especially His teachers, could understand this. You cannot gorge yourself on wisdom and knowledge, and not suffer the consequences. "Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it" (Prov. 25:16).
I think there is an awful lot of vomit around these days as men gorge themselves on so-called wisdom and knowledge and understanding... all in the name of deeper truth, confidently presuming to know all about Gods plans and purposes in the kingdom to come... and really there is no life in a lot of it. Too much honey will make you sick.
But we do need a little, for illumination, for expectation, and for hope. Jonathan dipped the end of his rod in the honey that dripped from the trees, and it brightened his eyes, so he could see clearly. Perhaps it would be satisfying to our curiosity and to our egos if we knew what God was going to do in the ages to come. But God give us a living Word for the wilderness people of this hour, that there might be an expectation and a hope for the Land of Promise, as we pursue this wilderness pathway.
(7) The Manna Settled On The Dew
Moses said, "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew..." (Deut. 32:2).
During the long wilderness nights, when the children of Israel were fast asleep, God was preparing their food for the new day that lay before them. We mentioned that there was a lot of tedious, hard work gathering the Manna. But we must know that there is nothing we can do to produce this life-giving bread from heaven. But in the darkness of the night when we are fast asleep, then it is that God prepares our way before us, and marks out our provision for the coming day. There is the sleep of death, we know. There is the sleep of lethargy, the sleep of unpreparedness, the sleep that comes to His people who have partaken of the sleeping pills of pleasure, and are pursuing this worlds failing joys. But to the people of God who are hungry for Him, open to His Word, and diligently seeking the Lord with all of their hearts, there is that SLEEP of the Lord that God puts upon us when He would perform those sovereign, mighty acts that are entirely beyond our ability and our resources to produce. When the Lord builds His House, He will not let you and I tamper with it. When He keeps the city, and we are simply moving in union with Him, we cannot come forth with our own strategies. And so the Psalmist says,
"It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows:
For [or, So] He giveth His beloved sleep" (Ps. 127:2).
Or, as one has translated it, "So He provides for His beloved ones while they are asleep." This is not an encouragement to slothfulness. It is simply Gods way of telling us to stop meddling with the beautiful work that He is doing in His House, and to cast our cares upon Him. Our anxiety and concern that come with "much serving," only increases the frustration. While we are attempting to produce "the bread of sorrows," God is saying, "Leave it to Me. I am preparing your Bread in the darkness of the Night. I cannot tell you what I am doing, and how, and when, and why. Because you would not understand right now. But you will understand afterward...."
Like Jacob of old, having fled from his brother Esau, and having eaten of the bread of sorrows... he falls asleep on the open fields, and it is there that God begins to work... and to reveal to His chosen one His plan for the House of God. And Jacob arises from his sleep saying, "Surely God is in this place and I knew it not."
Daniel, likewise, was in a deep sleep, with his face to the ground, when he saw the vision of this One who spoke with "words like the voice of a multitude." For he too saw the vision of something only God could perform, the vision of the corporate Man... of Christ in union with His many brethren.
Adam longed for one his likeness, his counterpart, his helpmate... one who would be in corporate relationship with him. But God had to put him into a deep sleep. For Adam could not even co-operate in this great work. He would only spoil what God had in mind. Then out from his wounded side there came forth Eve, beautiful to behold... like Adam, and yet so different: his counterpart, his bride, his very body... "bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh."
Our Lord Jesus likewise was put into a deep sleep, that out from His wounded side there might come forth a Bride, one who would be joined unto Him in corporate relationship-ship like unto Him, and yet different: His counterpart, His fullness... "bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh"... totally compatible with Him, yet totally dependent upon Him.
As Abraham stood ready to "cut" the covenant with God (for God had told him to prepare the sacrifices for the covenant), all he could do was to be watchful and obedient, driving away the birds of prey as they would swoop down upon the carcasses. Waiting, waiting, and waiting, for God to come on the scene so that they could walk between the pieces together, and thus confirm the covenant. And God kept him waiting, as usual. But when the fullness of time came, God put Abraham into a deep sleep... and God alone walked down between the pieces as a "smoking furnace" and as a "burning lamp." There was no way that God would let Abraham meddle with this beautiful work that He was doing... no way that Abraham could have any part in Gods sovereign working in the holy nation that would go into bondage in a strange land, and after 400 years come forth as a corporate people, out from the land of bondage, and into the Land of Promise. All Abraham could do when he was awake was to drive the birds away; and God would do the rest while Abraham slept.
We are talking about the Manna... and how this wonderful Bread of God would settle on the dew in the darkness of the night ...unhelped, unaided, untouched, unspoiled by the hand of man.
And then with fretful hearts we arise in the morning, and we say... Why, Lord? How, Lord? When, Lord? What, Lord? All the while being totally ignorant of what God is doing but somehow knowing that all is well, and somehow being able to confidently proclaim, "I know that all things are working together for good, because I love God... and I know I am called according to His purpose."
(8) The Manna Was Totally Sufficient
There was ample provision for every need. In fact, there was far more than they needed. The excess manna simply melted away in the heat of the sun. God always provides much more than we need, much more than we can digest. Not so we can waste it... pollute it... mismanage it... pervert it. But God will not let it be said of Him, "God, you havent given me enough." It is the measure of our hunger that determines the measure of our eating. And what is left over simply goes back to the heart of God, to come to us again on the morrow, as we are ready to receive more.
But there is more to the sufficiency of the Manna than that. It also provided every ingredient that was needed to keep the children of Israel vital, strong, and healthy. Moses tells us that after 40 years in the wilderness there was such a miraculous provision in the Manna, such strength, such life, that "Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years" (Deut. 8:4). The journey was long and wearisome, and they travelled over rough, wilderness terrain. But God kept them healthy and strong, maintained their footwear, and protected their feet from swelling. They were a healthy people, with not one feeble one in their midst, except as they disobeyed the Lord, and God sent evil diseases into their midst. God had given them the Bread of the Mighty, a food that made them utterly dependent upon God, for He wanted to demonstrate in their lives and in their wilderness journeyings, the fact that He was the God of provision and supply.
(9) The Manna Left Them With Unsatisfied Desires
This, and this alone, was the cause of all their fretting: "And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with Manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know..." (Deut. 8:3). God humbled them, and suffered them to hunger, and fed them with Manna! They got weary of it because it did not give them that satisfied feeling. They ate and ate till they were full, but still they felt hungry. They murmured, "We loathe this light bread... there is nothing before our eyes but this Manna." It did something for them that none of our modern foods can do: kept them healthy, and strong, and free from physical pains, diseases, and afflictions. But because it left them hungry, they loathed it. But God designed it for that purpose. "He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with Manna... THAT HE MIGHT MAKE THEE KNOW THAT MAN DOTH NOT LIVE BY BREAD ONLY, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDETH OUT OF THE MOUTH OF THE LORD DOTH MAN LIVE" (Deut. 8:3). The lesson in the Manna is simply this: that if our hearts are not set on knowing God and becoming acquainted with His ways, this Divine provision that God intended to drive us to the heart of God will leave us vulnerable to the cravings and desires of our own fleshly hearts. If we do not learn to find our true joy and delight in God, we are going to try to find delight in our own carnal ways. This fully explains why the Church in our generation, especially the Church in areas of abundance and prosperity and wealth, has been almost totally captivated with carnal desire and pleasures and appetites-THEY HAVE NEGLECTED OR REFUSED TO LET THE HUNGER-PRODUCING MANNA LEAD THEM TO THE HEART OF GOD. Let us not imagine that a little diversion from spiritual things, a little more indulgence in carnal pleasures, can in any way alleviate the hunger that God put in our hearts. It is only as we drink of Gods spiritual drink, and feed upon Gods spiritual food, that we are going to remain spiritually alive and well. God allows the hunger to remain, that we might learn to rely wholly upon God, and to know "that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." It is in the continual feasting, the continual eating, the continual digesting of Truth that our hunger is satisfied. And that is why the Manna leaves us hungry... that we might CONTINUALLY feast upon the Bread of Heaven.
The Purging Of Our Desires
We have spent a lot of time talking about the Manna because the people of God are headed northward into Canaan, northward into areas of spiritual warfare... and God would emphasize that for survival, and for conquest, we must partake of the virtues of His living Word, and overcome the desires of our own hearts. And that is why right here, just three days journey north of Sinai, once again God emphasizes the virtues of the Manna. But they said, "We are sick and tired of it... give us flesh to eat." And God answered their prayers!
Not only did He answer their prayers, but in the midst of their carnal cravings God released a further portion of His Spirit upon the elders of Israel. Prophetic utterances came forth through the elders of Israel while God was preparing a feast of quail for the disobedient people of God. Two men in particular are singled out as being especially blessed of the Lord with prophetic utterances: Eldad and Medad. "Eldad" means "God has loved," and "Medad" means "Loving, Affectionate." They didnt even come to the church to prophesy, much to the dismay and concern of some of the leaders . . . but they prophesied right there in the camp. But Moses was quite undisturbed: "Would God" he said, "That all Gods people were prophets, and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them." But what we want to emphasize is this: that in the midst of a great spiritual revival in the Camp of Israel, where God was manifesting His love, His affection, where the Spirit of prophecy was poured out in copious showers, right there God was answering the prayers of a carnally minded people, a people who hated the Manna, a people whose hearts were alienated from God. God sent the quail in such abundance that they had only to reach out at arms length to grasp them (they didnt even have to stoop low like they did to gather the Manna). Right there at arms length the quail were flying, about a yard high above the face of the ground, so that "he that gathered least gathered ten homers" (Num. 11:32). Some calculate this to be about 100 or 110 bushels. Whatever would a man in Israel do with 110 bushels of quail? To answer that question, let me ask another. What are people hoping to do with their fortunes of stocks and bonds and their silver and their gold in a world that is teetering on the brink of financial chaos and nuclear desolation? Answer that, and then perhaps we can find the answer to the first question. It is simply unexplainable madness. Now where was God leading His people as they proceeded on the three day journey northward from the holy mountain of God? He was leading them to a "resting place" in the Wilderness of Paran (Num. 10:33). It ought to have been called something like this: "Haven of Rest," "Valley of Contentment," or "Plains of Refreshing." But because the people had been overtaken with carnal desires they were smitten with a plague, and the name of the place was called: "Kibroth-Hattaavah," which means, THE GRAVES OF LUST, THE GRAVES OF UNHOLY DESIRE, THE GRAVES OF CARNAL CRAVING (Num. 1l:33-34).
The Root Cause Of Dissatisfaction
Dont blame God for your fretful, disgruntled heart. Dont blame your mate, your children, your job, your employer. Let us learn to put the blame for unholy desire where it belongs. Listen to Gods commentary as to what really happened:
"They set not their heart aright..."(or, "they prepared not their heart"). "Their spirit was not steadfast with God..." "They refused to walk in His law..." "They forgat His works, and His wonders that He had showed them..." "They tempted God..." "They spake against God; they said, Can God...? Can He give bread? Can He provide flesh?" "They believed not in God..." "They trusted not in His salvation" "They did flatter Him with their mouth...", "They lied unto Him with their tongues..." "Their heart was not right with Him..." "They tempted God..." "And limited the Holy One of Israel..." "They tempted and provoked the Most High God..."
These are just a few excerpts from Psalm 78, which the Psalmist, by inspiration of the Spirit, charged Gods people to read to every generation that was yet to follow, in order that the people of God MIGHT SET THEIR HOPE IN GOD AND NOT FORGET!
But what we want to emphasize in particular in this whole episode is the fact that GOD ANSWERED THE PRAYERS OF THIS KIND OF A PEOPLE, and ALL THE WHILE HIS HEART WAS FULL OF GRIEF BECAUSE OF THEIR WAYWARD, DISOBEDIENT HEARTS. AND EVEN WHILE THEIR PRAYERS WERE BEING ANSWERED THEY WERE SUBJECTING THEMSELVES TO EVIL DISEASES... DISEASES FROM WHICH GOD PROMISED DELIVERANCE TO AN OBEDIENT PEOPLE WHO WOULD WALK WITH HIM. God heard their cries, we are told, and gave them their request, "but sent leanness into their soul." The New American Standard Version reads, "He... sent a wasting disease among them."
I wonder how many people there are, how many ministers there are, whose spiritual bones are bleaching on the fields of Kibroth-Hattaavah... and all the while they are telling Gods people that they are rich and prosperous and happy because they have found the secret to success and prosperity... and that God has heard and answered their prayers for riches and wealth! It is what one minister described as "Gods Silent Judgment." Here they are, wasting away with an evil disease on the fields of Kibroth-Hattaavah, and boasting that they are the Kings kids, and feasting upon the good things of Canaan!
God help us, while yet it is called "TODAY," to eat of the Manna, and to discover the virtues of that spiritual, secret ingredient that makes us to know "that man doth not live by bread only, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD." For this is why God gave us the Manna.
On To Canaan!
From Kibroth-Hattaavah the children of Israel moved forward to the borders of the Land of Canaan. But before the final attack they were to send out spies from the Wilderness of Paran, to search out the Land...
"And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; and what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strongholds; and what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes" (Num. 13:18-20).
An Unprofitable Report
The apostle Paul comments on this episode in his epistle to the Hebrews, using the reaction of the spies to this investigation as an illustration of that inherent tendency in the hearts of Gods people to FALL SHORT of Gods desire for them. None of the twelve spies denied the abundant fruitfulness of the Land of Promise. Their only argument was that it was just an impossible situation for them to handle. To talk about our heavenly heritage with eloquence might stir up a lot of enthusiasm among Gods people. But God says it is an "unprofitable report" if there is no desire, no faith, no hope, no expectation, TO ENTER IN AND POSSESS THE LAND. "Yes, we all believe that truth, but you know very well that we cant appropriate it NOW."
We want to deal a little with the Canaan life further on; but it is apparent all over Christendom, and especially in the people who profess to have spiritual gifts and blessings, that there is no intention whatever to take the Land, and to completely subdue it for God. Canaan is presented either as something you die and go somewhere to attain; or it is so minimized that there is really no living hope presented for anything more than somewhat of an enlargement of certain gifts or blessings that we already have. Perhaps they would agree we need to make another excursion into Canaan, and bring back a few more pomegranates and grapes. Songs and sermons may be written about that. But this is nothing compared to what God has in store for His people. God wanted His people to go in and DWELL THERE. Special gifts, visions, and revelations concerning the realm of the Spirit, these we enjoy listing to, and we like to admire those great ones who have such visitations... but to GO IN and LIVE in that realm, of course that is entirely out of the question.
There has been in all ages an inherent tendency in Gods people to draw back from the fullness of the Promise, in view of the obstacles that lie before them; and to add to the problem, there are always those teachers capable of presenting an "evil report" convincingly enough that Gods people are quick to draw back if they have not "set their hearts aright." And so the apostle admonishes us...
"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached [the word of the report] did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Heb. 4:1-2).
Others translate it something like this: "Not being united in faith with those that heard it"... the thought being that those who heard the Word did not have faith and confidence to be JOINED unto the Word they heard... and especially unto Caleb and Joshua who brought back a "good report."
The Good Report
God sends forth His Word to bring into being this kind of a spiritual "joining." Paul tells us that the things of the Spirit that God has freely given us are spoken forth...
"Not in the words which mans wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:13).
But other translations bring out the thought not only of "comparing" one with the other, but of actually "combining" the one with the other. "Combining spiritual things with spiritual." As born again, regenerate people of God, we receive a new Spirit; and as we are filled with that Spirit, and drink more and more into that Spirit, our capacity to receive and to appropriate spiritual things becomes more and more pronounced. As God sends forth a living, anointed Word, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to take that Word, and to "join" it to the spiritual heart and mind within us, that entity that has come into "hearing" and into new life; and to make a deposit within the spiritual man from the heart and mind of God. The Spirit reaches forth into the heart of God and takes that spiritual life, that spiritual grace, that spiritual virtue that God seeks to impart to His own... and then joins it to that spiritual heart, that spiritual entity, that God has provided in His people. It is an ongoing appropriation of things spiritual into our lives, as we drink into His Spirit, walk in His ways, hear His voice, obey, submit, yield... and allow Him to build within us and implant within us those hidden resources of grace and wisdom and truth that abound in the heart of God. This is why the Spirit of God comes into our hearts to abide: "He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you" (Jn. 16:14). He speaks only what He hears from God. And what He speaks, His obedient children are quickened to hear and to obey... and that spiritual capacity that God has placed within us will lay hold upon it, and grasp that new measure of SPIRIT that God has been pleased to bring nigh to our hearts-so nigh that we can be joined to it, and it becomes OURS. Not only "joined to it" but there is a joining to the Christ from whom the Word came; and therefore a joining to those vessels in the earth THROUGH whom the Word came.
We know it is all ours now. .. out there "in the heavenlies." "Our life is hid with Christ in God..." And that is where we are to "set our affections"; so that little by little, here a little and there a little, there is an appropriation of it in a people who are being joined unto Him, filled with Truth, walking in Truth, walking in fullness. "When He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all [the] Truth..."( Jn. 16:13). It is an ongoing work, but it will come to fullness. God has promised that. Our failure in the matter does not cause God to change His heart and mind. The Word has gone forth, the Spirit of Truth has come, and will not return to the heart of God until He has brought abundant fullness unto Gods people, and He the Spirit of Truth returns to the heart of God with His fruitful people, bearing precious fruit, to delight and rejoice the heart of God.
And so we spy out the land; not just to get sermons, and have something to talk about. If thats all its for, its an EVIL REPORT we are bringing to the people of God. Rather, it is something that gives assurance that it is our Land, that God has given it, and that He is leading us into it. And as we search it out, that spiritual capacity we have for more of SPIRIT, more of GODS SPIRIT, also takes on enlargement, as God COMBINES SPIRIT WITH SPIRIT.
"For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things [or, THE DEPTHS] of God" (1 Cor. 2:10). Actually the apostle is not talking about "things" as such, but about the heart of God Himself--THE DEPTHS OF GOD.
Now if the Spirit is searching out the heart of God, He is doing so in order to JOIN SPIRIT TO SPIRIT. He is doing so in order that what is there in the heart of God might be joined to our spirit, till, in the fullness of Gods great work in His people, we are FILLED UNTO ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD (Eph. 3:19).
This kind of teaching is presented in the churches as an EVIL REPORT, FALSE DOCTRINE, etc. In reality it is those who say that the doctrine of our position in Christ Jesus in the heavenlies is not for attainment that God considers to be an EVIL REPORT. The whole purpose of the Gospel, the whole purpose of Redemption, is to COME OUT of the old life, and to COME INTO the new. "I have brought you OUT... that I might BRING YOU IN."
Confrontation And Strife
Certainly God wants His people to walk in love, to walk in harmony, to walk in unity. But when God speaks, and some say YES and others say NO, there is no virtue in siding with those who say "NO" for the sake of UNITY. As surely as there is a people who refuse to go on with God we are going to have confrontation and strife in the congregation of His people. Do you hear Caleb and Joshua saying, "All right brethren, we must have no division here... Lets just forget that far-away Land, those far-out things... Lets just walk together here in the Wilderness of Paran, and somehow hope that when we die we will all go to the same place "
Truth, living Truth, brings contention and strife to people with divided hearts, as truly as it brings peace and harmony to the people whose hearts are set aright, and bent upon doing His will.
And so there was weeping, and striving, and confrontation, and rebellion: the one side saying, "We cant go in . it is too much to expect of our children"; the other side saying, "We are well able... for Gods delight is in us, and we can take the land." And the side who said, "We cant go in," won out.
And God turned them back into the wilderness, to wander about another 38 years until the older generation, represented by the ten spies, had completely perished in the wilderness.
God was ready to destroy the whole nation, and if He had done so, He would not have abrogated His promise. He promised Moses that He would fulfill the promise in Moses own family, and make them even greater and mightier than the generation that he was even then seeking to bring into the Land.
But Moses was not an opportunist. He had a true priestly heart; and he literally warned God that if He were to take any such drastic action as that, He would end up with a very bad name, and His enemies who had heard of His fame would be able to mock and to say, "The LORD was NOT ABLE to bring the people in" (Num. 14:16).
God rid us all of "opportunism." If it may seem that God is bringing us into some kind of favor with Him or with the people of God, God search our hearts lest unknowingly we begin to delight in the downfall of others, and to take advantage of their downfall for our own enlargement. It might even seem that the Lord is leading that way. It could be a very severe test that the Lord is subjecting us to.
God search our hearts lest we be deceived by our ambitious hearts, and then seek to give God the glory for our lack of mercy and our lack of priestly character and concern for His people. Moses said, "Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people... And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word" (Num. 14:19-20).
But God said something else very significant; for God is a righteous God, and no respecter of persons or nations. If He is going to pardon such an undeserving people as this perverse generation, then He declares...
"BUT AS TRULY AS I LIVE, ALL THE EARTH SHALL BE FILLED WITH THE GLORY OF THE LORD" (Num. 14:21).
God will yet arise and judge the whole world for their iniquity. But in view of the fact that He has been so patient and gracious and longsuffering with His people in the so-called "Christianized" nations, THIS IS GODS GUARANTEE THAT HE WILL FILL THE WHOLE WORLD WITH HIS GLORY! As long as God continues to extend grace and mercy toward a disobedient people who are called by His Name, then the righteous God swears with an oath: "AS I LIVE, ALL THE EARTH SHALL BE FILLED WITH THE GLORY OF THE LORD"! His righteous judgments require it. It is not that the other nations of the earth deserve it. But when those who were bidden to the marriage feast of His Son spurned the invitation (as church people are doing today), the Master said, "Go out into the highways and the byways and compel them to come in... whether they be good or bad... that My House might be full."
In this day and hour when the call to come into total abiding union with His Son is being spurned, we can expect that God will begin to reach out and embrace the poor, and the needy, and the despised, and the rejected here in our own land... and especially in those nations of the earth that have not known too great an impact of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the past. Gods righteous judgments demand that this be so.
Faith Or Presumption
This matter of walking by faith has been greatly misunderstood by Gods people. The children of Israel had received a clear call from God to go forth into the Land of Promise, and possess it. Through fear and unbelief they rejected the Word of the LORD, and Gods anger was kindled against them. BUT ONE DAY LATER the people decided they had made a mistake, and they hurriedly mobilized their forces to go against the enemy. Moses said, "Dont do it... God is not with you." They said, "Yes, we were wrong... we will go and fight our enemies." But as they went against the enemy they were routed in battle and utterly defeated. "Why?" we might ask. The answer is clear. God was not speaking on that day, as He was the day before. Their "TODAY" of Gods promise was now a "yesterday." There is no tomorrow for those who spurn the call of God today. That is why the apostle warns us to pay heed to Gods Word, "AS LONG AS IT IS CALLED TODAY." We do not know how long that will be; but in vain will we try to fight the LORDs battles on yesterdays faith. "But they PRESUMED to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp" (Num. 14:44). There are so many of Gods people who have this perverted idea of walking by faith. Anything they want to do... any time they want to do it... they are encouraged to go and do it, and to do it "by faith." FAITH acts upon THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD. Talk about the heroes of faith all you will... go examine the scriptures, and you will discover that invariably the heroes of faith were those who walked in the REVELATION OF GODS WILL. It wasnt just a notion that Abraham had that perhaps they should move out of Ur of the Chaldees "by faith." God told him to do it. It wasnt just a good idea Noah had, that in view of the great wickedness of men perhaps he had better build an ark to shelter them from the wrath of God. God told him to do it. It wasnt just the zeal and the enthusiasm of Moses that prompted him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. God told him to do it. And therefore he did it "by faith." Because he was walking "by faith" he was able to know and to understand the will of God, and Gods desire for His people, and he acted according to the revealed will of God. Today a "walk of faith" is considered to be what you do when you quit your job, and "go forth in ministry" with no guaranteed support. Are the rest of us, then, walking in unbelief? It could be a step of faith if you quit your job and went forth, if God wanted you to do that. Otherwise it is mere presumption. If God wants you to become involved in some menial occupation, you must stay at your post of duty, if you truly want to "live by faith." True faith comes out of such a relationship with God that you just know, you are assured, that God wants you to do this. The knowledge of His will might come suddenly, or dramatically, or it might come after much seeking and heart-searching. We might have to learn from past mistakes and past experiences of failure. But the knowledge of His will, and of His timing, are prerequisite to a genuine WALK OF FAITH.
"Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). It is not something that you can manufacture any time you feel impressed to get involved with some worthy project. It "cometh" as you wait upon God, and find direction from Him. It is the Kadesh-Barnea principle, and one the people of God had to learn the hard way:
"TO DAY if ye will hear His voice,
Harden not your hearts..." (Heb. 3:15).
His "todays" may linger for many days, but we have no guarantee of that. If we refuse His voice TODAY, we have no assurance of hearing His voice tomorrow.
The Promise To The New Generation
God promised with an oath that their children, whom they feared would become a prey in a strange and difficult land, would enter in and possess it. God said, "You are going to disobey Me, because you fear for your children? I swear by Myself, I will bring your children in, and you shall die in the wilderness..." We would be more honest to tell the Lord, "Lord, I know you want this, but I refuse to obey"... than to try to flatter God, and say, "Lord, you know I would like to do what you said, but Lord, what will my wife say? What will my husband say? What will my children say? I am really concerned about them..."
When God calls for an act of obedience, there is no valid excuse for disobedience, in the sight of God. Saul would excuse himself on the basis that the people put pressure on him. That may have been true. But he knew Gods will in the matter, and he suffered the loss of his kingdom for his act of disobedience.
Israel was condemned to walk forty years in the wilderness with no hope whatever of entering into the Land of Promise. But this decree of judgment and this state of hopelessness was to the new generation a promise of watchcare and protection. For the new generation the rest of the journey would be PREPARATION to enter the Land, and God would be their Guide all the way:
"And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart..." (Deut. 8:2).
The Rebellion Against Authority
The time is at hand when God will begin to vindicate those who have His Word and His authority, and reveal those who are acting and ministering in presumption. This persistent conflict as to who is right and who is wrong is going to end. God Himself with His own Glory and Presence, will vindicate those who have His Word. Two hundred and fifty men of the band of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram gathered at the door of the Tabernacle, swinging their censers; and God told Moses He was going to do something new, something different. The earth itself would open her jaws and consume the rebels. Moses ordered the people of God to stay away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, lest they perish with them. Suddenly the earth opened her mouth and swallowed alive all that belonged to the households of these rebels; "And they went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed upon them" (Num. 16:33). This was one of the most calamitous forms of judgment ever visited upon the people of God in Old Testament times; and it all happened because of the abiding presence of the Glory of the LORD in the midst of His people. Let us fully understand the implications of this hope and this desire that we have for the return of Gods glory to His temple. In that day, great and awesome will be His judgments upon the people of God who are walking in rebellion. God is going to put an end to the strife of tongues, and the clamoring of apostles and prophets for a place of pre-eminence. He is going to settle the issue... not by debate and confrontation, BUT BY THE FIRE OF HIS PRESENCE. And like Moses and Aaron, the true priests of God will cry out to God in that day to show mercy, and to cut His judgments short. No amount of argument over the meaning of scripture will avail anything. But by the Glory of His Presence, and the Fire of His Word, the Lord Himself shall declare His Truth, and make known in the midst of His people who it is that has His living Word abiding in them.
The Rod Of Aaron
How did Moses settle this whole argument? He commanded that each tribe in Israel present their rods before the LORD, and to be laid up in the Tabernacle over night. In the morning Moses brought forth the rods out of the Holy of Holies, and gave to each man his rod. There was no change in the eleven rods. but the twelfth rod, the rod of Levi (which had Aarons name on it) had been vindicated in the power of resurrection life. Just overnight it had not only budded, and blossomed, but it yielded ripened almonds. This, of course, has already happened in our Lord Jesus. But the "Rod of Aaron" is going to bud again, in the lives of His chosen ones; and this is going to put an end to the conflict that has raged through the centuries as to who is right and who is wrong. ONLY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IS RIGHT; and the "power of His resurrection" working in His own, will vindicate them in the sight of God and of man. Coming together in an ecumenical sort of way, and trying to come to a consensus--yielding a little here and a little there for the sake of unity-will have no place in that day. Gods way alone is RIGHT, and He will not alter His Word, His Truth, His way, for the sake of "unity." The people of God who have known the Way of the Cross, the Way of humiliation and suffering, and who have followed in His pathway, seeking not their own glory, but the glory of Him who sent them... in them God is going to reveal the POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION. And when they speak, all men will know: This is the Word of the LORD.
THE WILDERNESS OF ZIN
"Tragedy And Triumph"
"Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh..." (Num. 20:1).
God had planned that the children of Israel would spend approximately a year at Sinai, to learn His laws and judgments, build the Tabernacle, and then proceed north into Canaan. Moses tells us that it was only "eleven days journey" from Horeb to Kadesh... but they wandered about in this area for another 38 years until the old generation had wasted away.
People ask, "How long is it going to take for us to enter into the fullness of Gods rest?" In many respects, it is you and I who are mostly to blame for the way we prolong our wilderness journey. God said,
"Oh that My people had hearkened unto Me,
And Israel had walked in My ways!
I should soon have subdued their enemies,
And turned My hand against their adversaries" (Ps. 81:13-14).
On the other hand it is true that we in this generation of the Church are suffering the consequences of the sins of former generations; just as Caleb and Joshua had to linger another 38 years in the wilderness because of the sins of the old generation. But what God decreed as judgment for the old generation, became PREPARATION for the new one. Let us take courage in this. Even in the midst of this "waste and howling wilderness," God is PREPARING a new generation to take the Land.
We recognize that there is a very individual and personal appropriation of Canaan Life, and we would not minimize that. But what God is about to do in the earth is so vast, so mighty, so terrible, so awesome, that no individual could possibly appropriate it in any sense of fullness. Caleb and Joshua must wait for the new generation to be trained and disciplined of the Lord, before they themselves could go in. In the meantime they could walk before the Lord in faith, in hope, in expectation. But Canaan Life in its fullness is for a corporate people. It is simply too vast for any individual to apprehend or appropriate:
"That YE, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend [or, better apprehend] WITH ALL SAINTS what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that YE MIGHT BE FILLED WITH [or, UNTO] ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD" (Eph. 3:17-19).
The Old Way, And The New
As we have emphasized in previous writings (Evening and Morning), when human failure hinders or forestalls the purposes of God, and God comes on the scene to remedy the situation and bring the people back to Himself... HE INITIATES A NEW WAY AND A NEW ORDER. If we understand this principle it will save us from a lot of frustration that we otherwise will have to suffer, as we seek to rebuild the order of a past day. God does not repeat Himself, in like manner as He worked the first time. He does not "try again" where man has failed. The second time-around is always different, always of a higher order, always a new way. We must know this if we are going to be spared the frustration and the sense of futility that so many have experienced as they sought to convince God that He must come forth and "do it this way" because this is the way He did it before. I know God is forever "the Same"; and because He is THE SAME He always does things differently the second time around. Because He is THE SAME He will continue to do "new things" in the midst of human failure. Because He is THE SAME, when man has failed He will rectify the situation through His righteous judgments, and will do something greater than the thing that man has spoiled. Because He is THE SAME He will consistently move forward, and upward, and onward with His people into new areas of revelation and Truth.
This teaching is certainly annoying to the theological mind, because it places man in a position where he cannot, even with all His knowledge of Scripture or of history, come up with a plan for revival, or a plan for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God in the earth, from all his storehouse of accumulated knowledge concerning past revivals, and past dealings of God with His people. Because God is forever THE SAME, and changes not, He always seeks for Himself a people who are dedicated, consecrated, humble, lowly, and obedient to His will. But because He is THE SAME, when He has found such a people, and has prepared such a people, He will do a "new thing" in the earth, and the old is seen to be the seed-plot and the preparatory way for the new thing that God has in mind.
This is nothing less than the operation of a Divine Law--THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS. There is no way that man can come up with methods and procedures to bring it into being, or to control it. It leaves man totally helpless and hopeless in himself, with no other recourse but to find himself carried along, moved along, and motivated by the Spirit of God... which, like the wind, YOU CAN HEAR HIM WHEN HE SPEAKS, BUT YOU CANNOT KNOW WHERE HE COMES FROM AND TO WHERE HE IS LEADING. The Spirit of God blows softly from the heart of God, and no man can predetermine the course of the Spirit, nor can he structure and mould the substance that God will bring into being. Man has tried, and will continue to try, to reproduce something that God did in the past ... but he is sure to fail, even as he has always failed in the past. Every time God moves afresh in the earth it is a NEW THING that He brings forth, and therefore He always catches man by surprise.
"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert" (Isa. 43:19).
Let man cease his efforts to structure and form and plan and connive to bring into being the New Testament Church, or the glorious Church that Paul spoke about... it is doomed to utter failure. But God will do it through a humble people... a people who are conditioned to hear what the Spirit is saying, and who will simply move along with His Wind, which bloweth where He will. What about the Scriptures? What about the Word? We need have no fear of being unscriptural, if the Spirit of God is in control. He is the Spirit of Truth. He knows the Scriptures... for He it is who inspired His holy apostles and prophets to write the Scriptures. And when He speaks, He speaks not "from Himself" as man does, He speaks only that which He hears from the heart of God, who is the Source and the Author of the holy Scriptures.
All man can do is patch up the old, for he is of the old creation, and knows not the Spirit of the New. But God readily discards the old, for there are new things in His heart, bursting to come forth... and human failure is a challenge to His heart to come on the scene, and to judge and bring to nought the old order, and to prepare the ground for the sowing of a new seed. He simply does not go about patching up the old, or helping man to do it. Let us observe this principle from a few examples of Scripture:
(1) The Old Wineskins, And The New
"And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish" (Luke 5:37).
You who feel that God gave you His Holy Spirit to make you a better Baptist, a better Presbyterian, a better Episcopalian, a better Catholic... a better Something-of-a-Past-Day... prepare your hearts for the bursting of the bottles! God gave His Spirit to bring you further and further into realms of New Creation life... and not to perpetuate something of the old.
(2) The Old Vessel And The New
"And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it" (Jer. 18:4).
God simply refuses to patch up a "marred" vessel. He simply crumples it up in His hand, and starts over again. He uses the same human clay, but the vessel is brand-new from His own creative hands.
(3) The Old Man, And The New
The first man Adam was not the exalted heavenly being that some make him out to be. He was but a type, or shadow, or "figure of Him that was to come" (Rom. 5:14). He was "of the earth, earthy" (1 Cor. 15:47). He was made "dust of the earth." Now our Lord Jesus came forth from the seed-plot of the old, but He was the true and perfect image of God, the "heavenly" man, the "Lord from Heaven," the Light, and the Glory of God.
(4) The First And Second Tables Of The Law
The first tables, written with the finger of God, were smashed by the great law-giver when he came down from the mount and beheld the idolatry of the people of God. The second tables of the Law were also written with the finger of God, but were brought down from the mountain to be placed in the Ark of the Covenant. Man was not permitted to meddle with the second tables. This, of course, portrays to us the nature of the Two Covenants....
(5) The First Covenant And The Second
When God speaks about a New Covenant, He obviously implies that the first covenant has become old: "In that He saith, A new covenant, He hath made the first old" (Heb. 8:13). The reason God did away with the old was because of human failure. "Because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord" (Heb. 8:9). The New Covenant, therefore, was not one for man to fulfill, but one that would be "written on the fleshly tables of the heart" enabling him to do what the Law could not do to love God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength.
(6) The First Tabernacle, And The Second
The First Tabernacle, erected in the wilderness at the foot of Mount Sinai, was but a pattern and type of heavenly realities. But the second tabernacle was the "greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands..." (Heb. 9:11). There were many tabernacles and temples in Israels history, as human failure brought the old one into ruin, and Divine intervention brought forth the new. But never did God ordain the reconstruction of the old one, in exact likeness to the one that preceded it (dealt with in writing From Tent to Temple). If we understood these principles we would drop those notions about God restoring the Church to her early apostolic likeness... or about the rebuilding of a temple in Old Jerusalem. When the first becomes old, Paul says it is "ready to vanish away" (Heb. 8:13).
(7) The Rock-First, Smitten; Then, Spoken To
When the people came to Horeb, they were famishing for water, and God told Moses to stand there by a certain Rock and smite it with the rod. As he did the waters gushed out from Horeb, which means a "dry, parched place." The waters flowed down the mountain in a gushing stream of pure, refreshing water. Paul tells us that the Rock was Christ, smitten that we might partake of the pure water of Life (1 Cor. 10:4).
But on a second occasion when they needed water, God told Moses to "speak unto the Rock" and that it would send forth its water (Num 20:8). For Christ once smitten must not be smitten again. Thereafter we walk in obedience and speak to the Rock. Moses discovered that the old method seemed to work, for he smote the Rock twice, and the water gushed forth. And sometimes we may think that the old methods can be repeated over and over again, and the results seem to prove it. But disobedience brings judgment, even though the immediate response of the Lord may indicate His blessing. Let us not forget that. For this error on Moses part he failed to enter the Land of Promise.
(8) The First Attack On At, And The Second
When Joshua began the conquest of Canaan, he took Jericho, and then proceeded the much easier task of taking Ai. But the people of God were totally routed and defeated. Joshua sought God earnestly and God revealed that there was sin in the Camp. One in their midst had taken of the "accursed thing" during the conquest of Jericho, and hid it in his tent. Achan the culprit was taken and stoned to death in the Valley of Achor, and then they were assured of victory.
But God did not authorize a full-scale frontal attack on Ai, like Joshua attempted at first. If there is human failure and Divine intervention, there is always a NEW WAY. Their past failures, because of true repentance, would now be interwoven with Gods NEW WAY. And so Joshua and his men pretended defeat, ran from the enemy as they did at first, and drew them out of the city. Then Joshua lifted up his spear and the ambush which he had hidden behind the city arose, entered into the city, and burnt it with fire. Then Joshua and his men turned on their enemies and caught them in a trap and utterly destroyed them. (See Josh. 8:1-29.)
God would have us know that, defeated though we may have been in the past, as we rid ourselves of the "accursed thing" in our midst, He is able to turn our defeats into victories. But more than this: after there is true repentance, and after God has caused us to forsake the idols of our heart, OUR PAST FAILURES AND MISTAKES MAY BECOME STEPPING-STONES TO VICTORY AND ENLARGEMENT. The manner in which the men of Israel were routed and defeated BECAME THE PATTERN OF VICTORY when God turned the curse into a blessing and gave "beauty for ashes." As the enemy gloated over the men of Israel running away from the battle as they did at first, God actually used that strategy to draw the enemy into a trap for his own destruction.
Many times in our walk with God, and in spiritual warfare, we may present an image of defeatism to the world about us, or to the Church. We just have to recognize that, and bear the reproach of it all. We are not really defeated... we are just projecting that image in the purpose of God for the eventual defeat of the Enemy:
"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; We are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; Cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, THAT THE LIFE ALSO OF JESUS MIGHT BE MADE MANIFEST IN OUR BODY" (2 Cor. 4:8-10).
Knowing that we are in the pathway of victory... knowing that we are drawing the Enemy into a trap... we bear the reproach of it all. We know God has led this way. We just know that we are "delivered unto death for Jesus sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:11). Satan never seems to understand the tremendous working of the resurrection life of Jesus in a people who are delivered unto death for Jesus sake... and he is trapped in his own devices.
(9) Jonahs First Call, And The Second Call
It may appear, of course, that Jonah failed the first time, and so now God was simply giving him another chance. We thank the Lord for the second, or the third chance... and for His utter faithfulness in the time of our failure. But there is more to the story of Jonah than that. And there is more to our many failures than that.
AFTER REPENTANCE, AFTER THE ROOTING OUT OF THE IDOLS OF THE HEART... GODS INTERVENTION IN OUR LIVES PRODUCES SUCH A WORKING OF GRACE THAT THE FAILURE ITSELF IS ENTWINED INTO HIS PURPOSES, AND GREATER IS THE GLORY THAT MAY COME FORTH FROM IT!
Let us picture Jonah walking through the streets of this sin-hardened people and crying, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall perish!" I wonder if anything would have changed; and God would then have to destroy the city. But the second-time-around was quite different.
Here was a man who had become a "sign" to the wicked inhabitants of Nineveh. He had been severely judged of the LORD. He had known the agonies of Sheol as he cried unto the LORD from the belly of the whale. He did not go into Nineveh performing a few signs and wonders in an attempt to get them to believe. He himself became A WALKING TESTIMONY, A LIVING SIGN THAT GOD IS A GOD OF JUDGMENT, A GOD THAT REQUIRES OBEDIENCE FROM THE PEOPLE WHOM HE HAS CREATED, AND THAT HE IS A GOD OF RESURRECTION LIFE.
Beloved, we are going to behold scenes of repentance such as this when Gods prophets are "delivered unto death," and become the humble, broken, and devastated vessels of truth that God would have them to be.
(10) First, The Front Door To Canaan; Secondly, The Back Door
The first generation was to have taken the easier way, a more direct way to Canaan-through the front door. But the first generation failed God, and a new generation was on the scene, that would not fail. Not because they were any better but because God had sworn with an oath that they would take the Land. Through the first generation God had planned a frontal attack on their enemies from Kadesh; but the second generation would wander about in the Wilderness of Zin for approximately 38 years, and then make a round-about journey into Canaan through the back door. It was a more complicated, a more difficult route. And as we shall discover, God would deliberately add to their difficulties, to bring forth greater glory to His Name. God does not repeat Himself; and vain is our attempt to take our history books as a map for future conquests in the Lord. True, we look into history to learn Gods ways, to know Gods faithfulness, and to learn from the mistakes and errors of our fathers. But we cannot take "history" as a blueprint for future conquests. We are going to discover as we follow on to know His ways that His path is always through an uncharted wilderness, always through the mighty waters, always through pathways that are so strange and perplexing that it will require great dedication and commitment and heart-searching and crying out unto God for clear direction and guidance. We cannot go about seeking to discover the pathway through the mighty waters, because the waters have returned to their course, and the path is no longer to be seen. The wilderness pathway through which men have walked in the past is now quite grown over, so that no longer can the way be seen with the natural eye. God has planned it this way in order that in our walk with Him we might learn faith, obedience, submission, dedication, humility, brokenness, and in that way be READY for the new Way in which He would lead us today. And this, of necessity, means forsaking our well-intentioned plans for re-establishing a "Church" according to some blueprint we think we have discovered in the Word. Let that Word rather break us, humble us, lead us, guide us, chasten us, and make us hungry for God (as the manna did to the children of Israel) that we might know and see the way in which we are to walk in this hour.
For the Second Generation there is a Second Pathway that leads to Canaan. It is a much more difficult route; and when they are about to enter the Land, they face a much greater obstacle: fortified cities, powerful enemies, strong bulwarks... to hinder or to frustrate the attack of the people of God. But once again there is Divine intervention. There was the Oath of God that guaranteed their success. And along with the Oath there would be more grace and more power to bring greater glory to the God of Israel. When the first generation had failed God, He commanded: "But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea" (Deut. 1:40). (This was the eastern fork of the Red Sea, not the one they had crossed over after leaving Egypt.) Here they wandered about for another 38 years. They seemed to have made a complete circle in their travels, returning almost to the same place from whence they had started at Eziongeber. (See Deut. 2:8.) Thirty-eight years of wandering for the old generation; but 38 years of preparation for the new one.
It may seem awfully discouraging at times to discover, after many years of frustration and futility, that we are back where we were many years before. Often it seems to be that way. But the circles of Gods purposes are not in vain. The sun rises... and sets... and rises again. It is not mere repetition. God is doing something new in each and every season. And God was leading the NEW generation, even as He was judging the OLD. Their difficulties and their trials would increase. But so would Gods faithfulness and His grace increase. God had sworn that He would bring them in. And He did.
CONFLICTS OF THE NEW GENERATION
The Long Journey Around Edom
The people of God tried to make a shortcut through the Land of Edom, but the Edomites would not permit it. Edom was another name for Esau, Jacobs twin brother. He was the firstborn of the twins, and as the firstborn he should have had the inheritance. But Gods purpose was in Jacob, the second-born. Esau was called Edom (which means, "Red, Ruddy") after he had bartered with Jacob and sold Jacob the birthright for the red pottage. The word Edom is from the same root word as Adam, "to show blood, rosy." Now Paul tells us that the natural man "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him." Edom forced the people of God into a long journey around his borders. The Adam nature waxes more and more corrupt. The natural mind is not subject to the law of God, "neither indeed can be."
Finally they encompass the Land of Edom and cross over the brook Zered. "Zered" means "to be exuberant in growth." It is somewhat of a turning point in the journeyings of the new generation. For them it is a day of new growth; and it is the end of the old generation: "And the space in which we came from Kadesh-Barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host..." (Deut. 2:14).
Conflict With Moab
God would not let Israel attack Moab, even as He would not let them attack Edom. But the presence of the people of God dwelling so close to their borders filled the Moabites with great fear, and they hired Balaam the sorcerer to come and curse the people of God. Israels conflict through the main part of their wilderness life was really with their own hearts. But now as the people of God begin to emerge from the wilderness way, there is a new conflict: a conflict with false gods and with evil spirits. We are in that day right now. What was once but a human attack, a war of reason, an attack of the flesh, is quickly becoming a war against spirits. Evil spirits are assuming control in many areas of society and of the Church, and Gods people are finding it increasingly difficult to know what is right and what is wrong. The time is now here when those demonic forces which once operated in the East (in gurus, medicine men, etc.) are now beginning to take up strong positions in the Church; and Christians are unaware of it because it is nicely clothed in "Christian" language. When the people of God are misled into thinking that the Kingdom of God is related to power and authority over this worlds resources, over its governments, over its political and economic forces... when the Kingdom of God is presented as something synonymous with success, prosperity, and wealth... there and then Satan has found a fertile soil into which he can plant the seeds of deception. Even physical health can be a deceptive thing if we use questionable powers to tap into it. For why would Satan deny us physical health if we use Satanic methods to get it? Is it a real healing if Satan should withdraw his attack on our body, so long as he can retain control of our spirit? And is it, in fact, a real healing? The alleviation of pain and deliverance from certain physical afflictions has long been associated with the practices of the occult. Is it healing? No! It is but a sedative that the Enemy imparts, in order that he might take control of the minds and spirits of people.
Our Lord Jehovah declares, "I am the LORD that healeth thee," and this is the heritage of the people of God. But it is a covenant promise, and for its appropriation God requires an obedient, covenant-walking people. The fact that this present generation of the Church is afflicted equally with the people of the world is proof that we have not walked in covenant-relationship with our God. Truth has been so perverted that if we find wealth, health, prosperity, and happiness, the means by which we find it are incidental to most people. If the results are "good," this must prove that the methods are of God.
God forbid that we should find gain without godliness, physical healing without spiritual healing, prosperity to the natural man without prosperity to the spiritual man, peace of mind without the peace of God. Is this disturbing to some of you who believe that anything that produces happiness and peace and blessing must be of God? I hope it is disturbing. Because true blessedness has nothing to do with that at all. The teaching of Christ concerning the Kingdom of God speaks on this wise:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:3-8).
The Doctrine Of Balaam
The most distressing thing about Israels conflict with Moab, and with Balaam the sorcerer, was this: God would not allow any enchantment from the false prophet to come upon the people of God, and yet Balaam got what he wanted through deception and guile:
"Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob... What hath God wrought!" (Num. 23:23).
BUT... the people who could not be cursed by Balaams enchantments, were allured and deceived by his teachings. Balaam encouraged the king of Moab to suggest fraternization with the people of God, and to invite them to one of their socials and the people of God were ensnared by the gods of Moab; and through "the counsel of Balaam" there fell a very great plague among the congregation of Israel. (See Num. 31:16.)
"And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods..." (Num. 25:1-2). The word "they" is feminine in the Hebrew, and refers back to the daughters of Moab. Twenty-four thousand valiant men of the new generation fell under the wiles of the daughters of Moab and perished in Gods judgments, when God rose up to take vengeance on every man who had been seduced to worship Baalpeor, the Moabite deity.
Who Is Baal, The God Of The Moabites?
Baalpeor was the Moabite deity that was worshipped on Mount Peor with all manner of immoral rites. According to historical and archeological discoveries, Baal is seen to be the god of fertility, the farm god, the god of agriculture, the god of increase ... the god of prosperity. The cult was rampant in Canaan, and throughout her history the people of God fell victims to the lure of Baal worship. Baal worship was conducted by priests in the temples of Baal, or in the outdoors, or in certain "high places" in the land. Animal sacrifices were included in their rituals, along with licentious dances, and immoral practices. The female associate goddess was called "Ashtoreth"... and all manner of immorality was practiced. There were male prostitutes and female prostitutes, all associated with temple worship. The cult was rampant in Canaan, and when Israel failed to completely wipe out the seven abominable nations of Canaan (as God had commanded them), they soon succumbed to the subtle attractions of this kind of worship; and it remained a curse in their midst, and a grief to the heart of God, throughout much of their history.
It is not difficult to see in the land today, not just a similarity to what they had in ancient Canaan, but almost a reproduction of the same licentious rites and practices as they had then. We can expect such things in the world about us, for Jesus said it would be as it was in the days of Sodom. But little by little the doctrine of Balaam is being incorporated into the doctrine of the Church. It all starts with an avowed worship of the "God of prosperity and happiness"... the God who gives success, achievement, gain, wealth, happiness. What has this got to do with immorality and licentiousness? Very much. What were the chief sins of Sodom? What was the basic sin of Sodom? God pin-points it very clearly. He says it was... "PRIDE, FULNESS OF BREAD, AND ABUNDANCE OF IDLENESS..." (Ezek. 16:49).
It was their high standard of living that led to all the other things that we particularly associate with Sodom. And it is no wonder that in our land where we have such wealth and abundance that we are reaping an unspeakable harvest of immorality, licentiousness, adultery, divorce, unfaithfulness, and so forth. Not only out there in the world, but now, right in the Church. Not only that, but all the while we are reaping such a harvest, the seeds which produced the harvest continue to be sown by men in the pulpit, who are presenting success, wealth, prosperity, and happiness as the fruit of faith, as the fruit of Christian achievement.
The real tragedy is not just the fact that people in the Church are becoming immoral like the world about them. The tragedy is that the spirits of Baal are actively involved in this seductive kind of teaching, and the people of God are not aware of it.
God has a controversy with this world-conforming church at Pergamos, which dwells where Satans throne is, and He is going to purge the "doctrine of Balaam" (who promotes Baal worship among the people of God) out of our midst; not with the javelin of Phinehas as in Moses day, but with "the sharp sword with two edges" that proceedeth out of His mouth (Rev. 2:12-14).
Conflict With Sihon And Og
"Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle. This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven" (Deut. 2:2~25).
In the crossing of the Arnon they entered for the first time the borders of their inheritance. "Arnon" means "a rushing stream," and is from a root word meaning "to shout (for joy)." Here they would "begin to possess" the Land that God had promised them. It was just a beginning... a very small beginning, in fact. The real measure of their inheritance lay across the Jordan. But some of the people were ready to settle for this land, and desired to go no further.
The Inheritance Of Reuben, Gad, And Half Of Manasseh
When these tribes saw the fertility and abundance of the land that they taken from Og and Sihon they were anxious to lay claim to it and settle down. They came to Moses and said, "If we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan" (Num. 32:5). At first Moses was angry with them, for their seeming desire to proceed no further into the conquest of Canaan. But when they assured Moses that they would "go ready armed" into battle against the Canaanites, until the rest of the tribes had received their inheritance, Moses relented. He commanded Eleazar the priest and Joshua the new leader, to give them their request, as long as they were faithful in helping their brethren to enter into their inheritance west of the Jordan. We must have no condemnation for those who desire to set up camp on the eastern banks of the Jordan. We know the inheritance they have there is only partial, and very limited; but it is nevertheless the beginnings of fruitfulness. If some find true delight and fulfillment there, who are we to accuse them of failure... or of disobedience? As we look about us we can see many of Gods people who are finding joy and delight in the pasture lands of Gilead, and sometimes we may be inclined to envy them. They have found the desire of their hearts. They are happy and contented right where they are. And God is blessing them abundantly. They are fruitful in ministry and in service for the Lord. They have large flocks and herds. Why cant we be like that? The fact is, the vision that God has implanted, and the hope that burns within, will not permit us to settle on the eastern plains of the Jordan. We just know there is more, much more than we can see here. It is not that we are unthankful, dissatisfied, or disgruntled... as some may think. What was wrong with Abraham anyway? There he was dwelling in Hebron, the choice part of Canaan. Why did he always insist that he was but a "stranger and pilgrim" in the earth? Are you not at home, Abraham? Abraham could never feel "at home" because in following on to know the LORD, and in touching the heart of God, he had become increasingly aware that there had to be something better, something more enduring, than a beautiful country such as he had discovered there at Hebron. This is what the Spirit revealed to the apostle Paul. If Abraham was a "stranger and pilgrim in the earth, then he was declaring plainly that he looked for a "better country"... he "looked for a City which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (Heb. 11:10,16). Your desire for something better, something more fulfilling, something more enduring, is related directly to your walk of obedience before the LORD. For in measure as God has enabled you to walk in obedience before Him, so in like measure has He been able to draw nigh to you, to walk with you, and to cause you to become more and more aware of that great longing that He has in His heart for a permanent HOME in your heart. What He has revealed and what He has given, you recognize as being good and wonderful. But what He has BECOME to you means much more than His gifts. And the glory of His Being, His character, His nature, His love, His Truth... all these reflect more and more of that inheritance on the other side of Jordan for which your heart longs and for which your spirit yearns. And whereas at one time we may have gloried in what He DID for us; now we glory more in what He IS to us. Once it may have been great in our eyes to be USED of the Lord; but now we desire only to WALK with Him. Once it was much service, much activity, much ministry, that filled us with a sense of gratification and fulfillment; now it is rather in simple abiding relationship with Him that we find our delight; and if this be not so yet in actual experience, it is nevertheless our abiding and constant hope.
If we do not know the difference between service and relationship, perhaps we should ask the Lord to test the motives of our hearts.
Is it enough that we should walk with Him, and know His voice? Or do we have that uneasy feeling that if our ministry lags, and we are becoming less and less active in our service for Him, that somehow we are losing ground? Was Jesus more spiritual when He healed the sick and raised the dead than He was when He set His face as a flint for Jerusalem, and walked the rugged pathway up Golgothas heights? Was it not all the same to Him, to know that in either case He was simply doing the will of God?
"Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God...."
"My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work..."
New Expectation On The Plains Of Moab
As Reuben, and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh took their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan, they must have felt a certain satisfaction in knowing that God had been faithful in giving them the desires of their heart. Their part in any future conquests would not in any way enlarge their borders, it was just part of the deal they had made with Moses. When the battle was over, they would return to the beautiful plains of Gilead, and there establish their homes. In any future battles, in any future conquests, theirs would always be the backward look.
But with the other nine and a half tribes in Israel there was expectation and hope for something they did not have on the plains of Gilead. Theirs was a living hope in every conquest they would make. "For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom. 8:24-25).
The nine and a half tribes belonged to the western side of the Jordan. They were bent upon new conquests, new areas of triumph in God, new explorations in the Land of Promise: new heights, new lengths, new breadths in God that must be appropriated. It is the forward look, the upward call, that urges us on. We have not yet come to the Rest, and to the inheritance that God has promised. There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.
The Conquest Of Canaan Becomes Increasingly More Difficult
With every delay to the conquering of the inheritance that we experience because of human failure, the task becomes that much more difficult. Every time God moves mightily by His Spirit, and the people of God for one reason or another are defeated and turned back into the wilderness, the next attempt at conquering the Land seems to become more and more remote. But there is a principle in God, and one that we have emphasized over and over, and it is this: When God has sent His Word into the earth concerning His purposes for His people, HE WILL NOT TAKE THAT WORD BACK unfulfilled, unfinished, uncompleted. That Word will remain in the earth, until it has accomplished the desire of His heart: "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it SHALL NOT RETURN UNTO ME VOID, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:10-11).
Some may confess that God has seen fit to take back that Word, because we have come to the end and its too late now for God to do what He had planned. Some may confess that there is nothing to be expected but a sudden removal of the Church from the earth... like a farmer would reap his green fields of wheat when it appears that a devastating storm is on its way. At least, then, he would have fodder for his flocks.
But Our Confession Is A Living Hope
We confess that His Word is in the earth concerning a harvest that is coming forth that will be ripe, that will be full, that will be like the good Seed that was planted: some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, AND SOME ONE HUNDRED-FOLD... We confess that we hear that Word, and therefore we speak it .
We confess that we have a living hope that His Church will yet become a "glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or blemish, or any such thing"...
We confess that the Lord has delayed His coming, as He intimated He might have to do, that with "long patience" He has waited "for the precious fruit of the earth"; and that the Day of Harvest is now very nigh at hand...
We confess that the Judge now stands at the Door, to purge His Church, and then to judge the world...
We confess that the Husbandman is preparing laborers for His harvest field... and that shortly they will reap the fields that are fast coming to maturity... and that very soon He will say to the reapers: "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap... for the harvest of the earth is ripe" (Rev. 14:15). Notice in this passage that the word "ripe" is from a Greek word that means "more than ripe, dry, mature, withered." Is this the way you feel sometimes? Think it not strange; in the Day of Harvest the fields of grain must become very dry, in order that it may be threshed, and the chaff driven away.
Yes, it is going to become increasingly more difficult for God to bring His people into the inheritance; it is more difficult now than at any time in the history of the Church. This simply means that the God who promised must give more and more grace, and more and more of His Glory, to accomplish the task.
In a previous writing ("Feed My Sheep"), we dealt somewhat with the flooding of the Jordan at the time of Israels passage across the river into Canaan... God making it even more difficult for their entry into the Land. We mentioned how the priests bore the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders and led the way; how they dipped their feet in the waters, and saw the waters cut off before their eyes; and how they stood with the Ark in the bottom of the river while the people of God passed over. We spoke of their encampment on the western side of the river, in preparation for the attack on Jericho; and of the circumcision of the new generation on the plains of Gilgal and how God was making it increasingly difficult for the new generation to survive, incapacitated for battle in the presence of their enemies. And now the man Moses had just died; the man who had the authority for leadership, and the expertise for battle. In all the way that the Lord led the new generation we can see less and less likelihood of a successful conquest of the Land. Everything was against them. Weakened by the wiles of the daughters of Moab and their forces decimated by Gods wrath as He slew 24,000 men, and then at Gilgal totally crippled before their enemies.
What was God doing anyway? He was making it utterly impossible for them to attain to the promise EXCEPT BY A MIGHTY AND MIRACULOUS DISPLAY OF HIS OWN POWER AND GRACE AND GLORY. For He alone was to be glorified in the sight of the chosen nation; and He alone was to be glorified in the sight of the wicked nations of the land.
When we see and understand how Jealous our God is for the Glory of His great Name, these things that we are talking about ought not to be considered some far-out teaching... something we can just lay aside as irrelevant to the purpose of God in this hour. It is in a day and hour such as this, when apostasy is rampant, and the Name of our Lord is blasphemed among the nations, that we can expect and anticipate the Jealous God to rise up and vindicate His great Name in a holy, conquering, godly remnant in the earth.
THE HEAVENLY CANAAN
Many of Gods people do not understand why, after spending perhaps many years in comparative ease and contentment in their little corner of church activity and involvement, suddenly they are no longer satisfied with the monotonous routine and they are raising questions of concern. Why, Lord? When? How? What? As we mentioned, these are the questions that pertain to the Manna; and all we can say is, the Manna is having its effect in their lives. They have been eating of the wilderness food, and as a result there is an increasing hunger for a greater reality in their lives. This is Gods ongoing work in the wilderness people, and we just want to encourage the people of God who are somewhat discouraged, disillusioned, or perplexed about the state of things in their own lives or in the Body of Christ, to lift up their eyes and see the Glory of Beulah Land:
"Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah [My delight is in her], and thy land Beulah [Married]: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married" (Isa. 62:4).
Let us not get excited about the little excursions that people are trying to make into the land these days as they try to grab another branch of grapes from the valley of Eschol, or fill their sacks with a few more pomegranates. The time is here when God would mobilize a new generation for conquest of the whole land, and we cannot settle for anything less.
Canaan, A Place Of Victory
"He... brought thee out in His sight... to drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance..." (Deut. 4:37-38).
Canaan is that heavenly heritage that God wants His people to begin to explore and to appropriate; and therefore it is a place to be conquered, because it is in this realm that the forces of evil would seek to maintain their strongholds over the hearts and minds of people. The "heavenlies" in Christ Jesus are those realms in the Spirit that belong to Gods people (Eph. 1:3, 20); and that is why our warfare is in that realm, and not in realms of the earth (Eph. 6:12). Yes, we are in the earth, and we are concerned about the state of affairs in the earth; but if our warfare is THERE we will accomplish NOTHING for the inhabitants of the earth. We must war "in heavenly places" with spiritual armor, and with spiritual weapons, or we accomplish absolutely nothing. Nor can we mix the carnal with the spiritual in order to strike a balance. Spiritual warfare in the heavenlies and carnal, political maneuvering in the earth will not bring a balance, but a stalemate. God grant unto His people in this hour such a confrontation with Himself that we will take our shoes from off our feet, like Joshua of old, and step into the shoes of "the preparation of the gospel of peace." Only then shall Gods people know how to go forth against their Jerichos, with the trumpet blasts of the rams horns, and the Ark of His presence, and see the strongholds of the Enemy crumble before Him.
The Church for many years now has wanted to be "caught up" to be with the Lord in the air... but actually it has been a desire to escape from the Battle. We know that Day is coming; and not only in our spirits, but in glorified and resurrected bodies we shall be "caught up to be with the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord." We earnestly anticipate that Day; but we must continue to emphasize that this is to happen at the "last trump," and not at the first, or the second one. First of all there is the Day of Battle; and for that God has provided for His people NOT WINGS BUT ARMOR!
"The night is far spent,
The day is at hand:
Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness,
And let us put on THE ARMOUR OF LIGHT" (Rom. 13:12).
Any doctrine that says the Lord must delay His coming because certain events have yet to take place, is not scriptural . for the "Coming" of the Lord certainly involves many aspects of His appearing that are without warning, without imminent signs, without universal recognition. We are not talking about "Many Comings," for the Bible says He will "appear the SECOND TIME"-- not a second, third, and fourth times. But we speak of aspects of His Appearing. The same scripture that says He will appear "the second time" also states that He has already appeared ONCE (Heb. 9:28). But in that ONE appearing, were there not many, many aspects of His appearing? First to Mary and Joseph; then to the shepherds; then to the faithful in the temple, Simeon and Anna; then to the wise men from the East; then to John the Baptist in the Jordan; and then to Peter and to the other apostles as God granted revelation to "see" Him, and to "know" Him. And finally He was "declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." But it was all ONE APPEARING. And so we are confident that in His SECOND appearing there will be many aspects of it: as He comes suddenly to His Temple to purge the sons of Levi, as He appears in refining fire, in fullers soap; as the wise virgins enter in behind closed doors, and the foolish stand without knocking; as He appears to His own, "comes" and takes up His abode in those who love Him, and have made for Him a habitation; as He "comes" to the unrepentant in Ephesus and removes their candlestick; as He "comes" to Pergamos to fight against them with the sword of His mouth; and as He "comes" as a thief to Sardis and finds them unwatchful and asleep. (See Mal. 3:1-2; Matt. 25:6-11; Jn. 14:21,23; Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:3.)
I know it would be nice if we could come up with a sound, scriptural schedule for all the events that are to take place relative to the Second Coming; and there are many who attempt to do that very thing. I personally would not waste my time trying to do this; because I know there is only one way we are going to be prepared for the Second Coming... and it is not by knowing the time-table, but by being "watchful" and "sober." To such the Lord does not appear as a "thief in the night." To all others He will, regardless of their understanding of end-time events. (See 1 Thess. 5:4; Mark 13:35-37.)
And so while many are hoping to be translated physically to heavenly places to escape the Battle that lies before us, there is a holy, conquering remnant who will "see" Him and "know" Him, and rise to "heavenly places" in the Spirit to war a good warfare in the Day of the LORD, and emerge from the Battle in total victory. There is absolutely nothing lacking in the "Armor of Light" that we require for total conquest over the evil hosts of Satan. Notice that when Paul tells us to put on the "whole armor" he specifically tells us that it is for "THE EVIL DAY" (Eph. 6:13). Can you conceive of any day that is more "evil" than this Day, this Day of His Appearing?
Most of our weaponry is defensive; because the Enemy can defeat us in our own territory if we do not realize that WE ARE THE INHERITANCE that he wants to keep for himself, and which God would overcome for Himself. We are that battle-ground which the Enemy will continue to war; and God has given us the battle-dress that we need to maintain our position in Gods righteousness, truth, and grace.
But we do have one "offensive" weapon... and one is all we need. How we wish Gods people could understand that! "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God..." And it is not the Bible, nor our many quotations of Scripture that we toss about to prove our doctrines... IT IS THAT LIVING WORD THAT PROCEEDETH OUT OF THE MOUTH OF THE LORD AS A SHARP TWO-EDGED SWORD, that will slay and cut asunder, dividing soul and spirit, and discerning, uncovering the thoughts and the intents of the heart.
"God, hide us in Your mighty hand, that when You see fit to draw us forth in the Day of Battle, You may be able to speak through us a quickened Word that will strike unerringly in the hearts of Your people, and deal a death-blow to the hosts of wickedness that are arrayed against Your Church."
Canaan, A Place Of Flowing Waters
"A good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills" (Deut. 8:7).
God said He would bring us OUT to bring us IN. Out from the land of Egypt where they had to water their land with their foot, with the crude irrigation pumps they had in those days... pumping, pumping, pumping, and wearing themselves out to get a trickle of water. "But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven" (Deut. 11:11).
How we long for those days when the Spirit of God comes into our midst in abundant fullness, and flows in our midst. Instead of Gods ministers trying to "pump" up a little water with the sweat of their brow. Better to have a little trickle of water than none at all... Yes, that may be true; but Jesus has promised us in the heritage of the Spirit, "Out of his innermost being shall flow RIVERS OF LIVING WATER."
"I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert... to give drink to my people, my chosen" (Isa. 43:19-20).
"I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water" (Isa. 41:18).
"And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water..." (Isa. 35:7).
Canaan, A Place Of Fruitfulness
"A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing." (Deut. 8:8-9).
Isaiah prophesied that when the Spirit was poured out upon Gods people, that "the wilderness" would be "a fruitful field, and the fruitful field" would be "counted for a forest" (Isa. 32:15).
In Israels feast days, when all the people were to come together to keep the feasts of the LORD in their season, God promised: "They shall not appear before the LORD empty" (Deut. 16:16). Every man would have something to bring before the LORD, as God enabled. Let the ministers of the Lord everywhere begin to so nurture the people of God that they shall have something to bring to the House of God when they assemble together. You wonder about the divisions and the schisms that are so prevalent in the House of God? God says it is because there are members in the Body that are considered to be "less honorable," and that as He bestows more abundant honor upon them, the schism will disappear. (See 1 Cor. 12:23-25.) Keeping the people under control and in their place will sooner or later lead to a "schism." But as Gods people are fed and nourished, and encouraged to function as a vital contributing member in the Body of Christ, the schisms will disappear; because all the members will have mutual concern one for the other. The day of Sauls over-lordship in the House of God is coming to an end; and God is going to raise up a David-Shepherd ministry that will feed His people with Truth and Knowledge, and make them to be mighty in God:
"And he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them" (Zech. 12:8).
True fruitfulness is not mere church activity and church involvement. It is a life that has come into union with the Lord, and that delights the heart of the Husbandman. Ephraim was that tribe in Israel that was to be especially "fruitful." The word means "double fruitfulness." The anointed people, the "double portion" people, are to be doubly fruitful unto the Lord. Joseph was to have a double portion through Ephraim. (Manasseh was firstborn, but he must give way to Ephraim, the second-born. Manasseh means "caused to forget," and it is only as we are prepared to "forget those things which are behind," the life of the desolate wilderness, that we are going to reach forth unto those things which lie before.) Of Joseph it was said, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall" (Gen. 49:22). But God complained about Ephraim in later centuries, "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself..." (Hos. 10:1). How many of Gods people today, how many of His ministers, are bringing forth fruit unto themselves? Very active, yes; very busy for God, yes; but like Martha, "careful and troubled about many things" rather than the ONE THING THAT IS NEEDFUL, to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear what He has to say.
Then as we sit at His feet, and learn of Him... as our roots go down to the waters of the well where we are planted... then will our branches go "over the wall" for OTHERS. God will take care of that if we but abide faithful, rooted and grounded in Him, who is the true spring of Life by which we are planted.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is..." The apostle is about to name many kinds of fruit, but it is all ONE FRUIT, and so he uses the singular verb ...
"The fruit of the Spirit IS:
Love, Joy, Peace,
Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness,
Faith[-fulness], Meekness, Temperance. .(Gal. 5:22-23).
All this is first and foremost for the delight and joy of the heart of the Husbandman; but as it delights His heart, so will He long to share the fruit He has found with others.
God has always desired the "firstfruits" for Himself. God was consistent in this in His relationship with Israel. The "firstborn" was to be His. The "firstfruits" were to be His. "My soul desired the firstripe fruit" (Mic. 7:1).
If we truly love God, then we will show our love to others; but God desires that we give Him the firstfruits. He must have His portion before all others. Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will keep my words" (John 14:23). We cannot say, "Lord, I love you so much... I must go forth in ministry... I love you so much .. I must preach, I must build churches, I must be a missionary... I will give you my money..." These and many more acts of service that we may come up with could proceed from the longing of our own heart for some kind of gratification, some kind of fulfillment. True love will say, "Lord, I love you so much I give you myself." And this could lead to many different areas of outreach. But it could also lead to a life that is very unobtrusive, insignificant, self-effacing, unrecognized in the affairs of men or of the Church. You may never become "known" and "recognized" as having any worth to God or to the world about you, but you will be known in heavenly places. Your work may be considered of little or no value in the eyes of men, and oftentimes in your own eyes, but it is something you must do because of your love-relationship with the Lord, and it is of great value in His sight. Your love for Him may bring you into areas of reproach and criticism that may be difficult for you to bear. But if it is because you "love HIM" and are "keeping His Word," then that fruit that you are bringing forth unto Him is not the fruit of an empty vine, but a special kind of "firstfruits" that brings great delight to His heart. In Gods sight it is far more precious than the "fruit" you endeavor to produce as you do your own thing, go your own way, initiate your own plans, and bring forth some kind of a product that is acceptable and pleasing to men, but disapproved of God.
Only those who themselves have learned the ways of God will approve of the ways of those who walk in relationship with Him. We need to be delivered from the inherent desire that is in all of us to be "approved of men".
Then as we are planted "by the Well," and confined within the Wall of His Will, God in His own time and way will see to it that our branches "run over the wall." These are the branches that bring forth fruit unto others. Others will then eat of the fruit and rejoice in the strength and the life and the joy that it brings to their hearts. Perhaps they do not know... perhaps they shall never discover... that it is from the vine of Joseph they are eating, "whose feet were hurt with fetters... whose soul was laid in iron." But God knows that it was He who caused that wall to be built, and that He did it in order to shut the man Joseph in unto Himself. And God Himself was the first to partake of the pleasant fruit from the vine of Joseph. The fruit inside the wall was for God alone. God delighted Himself in the fruit of Josephs love, his patience, his longsuffering, his faithfulness, his meekness, his gentleness, his goodness, his self-control. And because these virtues caused His heart to rejoice He said, "I must share this fruit with others... I must share this fruit with the people of Egypt... I must share this fruit with the children of Israel."
But how can mortal man bring forth fruit to delight the heart of God? Only if that fruit is from the Seed that came forth out of the heart of God Himself. Only if it is the reproduction of the nature and likeness of God Himself. For then it is not the work of Man but the "fruit of the Spirit." Mortal man is merely the garden plot, only the dust of the ground, out of which God is able to bring forth "Fruit after His kind."
Canaan, A Land Prepared
"Great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not, and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not..." (Deut. 6:10-11).
Cities we do not build; storehouses we do not fill; wells we do not dig; and vineyards we do not plant... because it is a PREPARED PLACE FOR A PREPARED PEOPLE. Canaan is the realm of the Spirit; and it is here in the wilderness areas of our lives, and in the lives of men, that God would bring forth and manifest this fruitfulness. God will give our enemies no credit for having built the cities, filled the storehouses, dug the wells, or planted the vineyards. And when men say "It is good that there is evil in the world, and God actually designed it for His glory," they are actually heaping condemnation on themselves. Paul did teach that God was able to bring forth GOOD out of EVIL, and some misconstrued this to mean, "It is good that we have evil, so that God can be glorified." But Paul would not so much as argue the point. He simply replied, "Their condemnation is just who say such things" (Rom. 3:7-8). It is a perverted concept of God that says, "God made the evil.... God created the Devil just as he is... because He needed such a one to fulfill His purposes." Paul refuses to even argue against such perversion of Truth.
And so there are vast areas out there in the wilderness of life that are ready and waiting for the people of God to subdue. And we are going to discover, if we follow on in the ways of the Lord, that what the Enemy planned and subdued for his own dominion and for his own glory, these areas are going to be conquered and subdued for God. Men and women who hated God with a passion are going to love Him with as great a passion. The bondage they once knew in servitude to Satan will cease; and many who were captives and slaves to Satan will become equally captivated and enslaved to the will of God. Yet in partaking of this new kind of captivity, captivity unto their Lord who redeemed them, they are going to discover true freedom, and true rest, and true joy. For he who once enslaved them is master of lies and deceit and murder and hate; whereas He who liberated them is Master of Truth, and Faithfulness, and Life, and Love. Can we conceive of any higher form of liberty and freedom than to be enslaved and made captive unto Him who is TOTAL LOVE AND TOTAL TRUTH AND TOTAL LIFE? In vain are we going to discover any kind of real liberation in coming to KNOW ourselves, and exploring the hidden resources of our own talents, our own natural, soulish natures. This kind of research and exploration merely increases the bondage. And as we seek to explore our own hidden resources, our own inward deity, all the while thinking to discover the key to life and freedom and power, we are becoming more and more enslaved to the "Prince of Darkness."
Do you want to find the true "key" to happiness and freedom? There is only one way. Like the Hebrew servant of old, having served his time in bondage and having been liberated according to the law of God, then out of love for his master he came and submitted his ear to be pierced at the door-post of his masters house, and saying through that act of committal to the one he loved: "I love you so much, I want to be your bondservant forever... My true freedom and joy is in serving you..."
Canaan, A Life Prepared
We mentioned that Canaan was a prepared place for a prepared people. This is what the wilderness was all about: to prepare our hearts through entanglements, through tasting of bitter waters, through knowing hunger and thirst in a dry and barren place, through the purging of our desires... until we come forth as the PREPARED PEOPLE for this PREPARED PLACE.
If Canaan speaks of a Land in the Spirit that has to be subdued for God, then how can we expect to partake of it if our own lives are ruled by self and the carnal nature? We must first allow the Lord to subdue our own wilderness if we are going to subdue the hearts of men, and overthrow the principalities and powers that dominate them, and bring them into the liberty and the freedom of Christ. This is why the weapons of are warfare cannot in any sense be earthly and carnal. This is why our weapons consist of such virtues as Truth about our loins, Righteousness as a breastplate, the preparation of the Gospel of Peace for our shoes, Faith as our shield, Salvation as our helmet, the Word of God as our one and only offensive weapon, and PRAYER--continuing prayer--that causes all these other weapons to be effectual and mighty. Seven spiritual weapons to overcome the seven powerful nations of Canaan! And Paul tells us that these are all we need: he says our weapons constitute the "whole armor," a complete battle-dress, with nothing lacking.
Many ministers will admit, "Yes, we need Truth and Righteousness and all that"--but their thought is--"Lets get on with the Battle." They completely fail to understand that there is no getting on with the Battle until these virtues are wrought in the hearts of Gods people. We hear much of the necessity of "preaching the Gospel" and scarcely anything about the SHOES OF PREPARATION. Unless our feet are shod with the shoes of preparation there will be no effective Gospel preached to the nations. O, the gimmicks that men in the Church have come up with to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Drama, and musical entertainment, and dance troupes, mime and make-believe and clowns... and the blessed Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has become a sad, polluted mixture. But there is a people in the earth who are putting on the Shoes of Preparation, and when they are sent forth into the earth with the everlasting Gospel on their lips, they shall walk in the prepared ways of the Lord, bringing deliverance to the captives.
The Walk in the Spirit is a walk in the Prepared Life. And when we know this we are relieved of any responsibility as to the Way we are to take, or the work that we are to accomplish. We must recognize this, and not seek in any way to get involved with our own strategies, our own thoughts. The prophet tells us that these are as far below Gods thoughts, as the earth is below the heavens. Paul tells us that the mind of the flesh is "enmity against God" and that it is "not subject to the law of God." He tells us that the natural man "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God," that they are foolishness unto him.
If we pursue the Life in the Spirit we are pursuing an unknown pathway. Yes, some have travelled it before, but it remains an unknown pathway. I mean, though we read about it and know about it, we must discover it for ourselves. This is what we are to learn in our wilderness walk. It is a way that God prepares in the entanglements of life. We cannot mark out for ourselves a smooth and a plain pathway. But as we learn Gods way in this realm, we are going to find that God is by His Spirit seeking to lead us out of the old way of life, and into a new prepared way of the Spirit. It is not in man to know it, or to search it out...
"There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vultures eye hath not seen: the lions whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it...
"Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof...
"Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air...
"Then did He see it, and declare it; HE PREPARED IT, yea, and SEARCHED IT OUT...
"And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." (See Job 28:7-28.)
It is a Way that God has PREPARED for them that fear Him ... fear Him enough that they will fear to go their own Way or do their own thing.
We come to God as helpless, hopeless sinners and find mercy, and He sovereignly brings us into a realm of New Creation. And then it seems the people of God are encouraged to go their way, and do the best they can with Gods help. But Paul exhorts us to walk by the rule of New Creation life. (See Gal. 6:15-16.) It is the Rule of the Cloud... the Law of the Spirit... a Law of Life... and therefore it is not in the heart of man to comprehend or understand it.
This was Nicodemus problem. He was a man of great wisdom and understanding as far as this world goes, and as far as the "Church" of his day was concerned. He was a teacher in Israel; but Jesus would show him a way into a totally new kind of life:
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (Jn. 3:8).
Evangelical Christianity has no problem with that. We know it means the Spirit has moved upon our hearts very sovereignly we dont know how... and brought us to new birth in a manner far beyond our ability to comprehend. BUT WE MUST WALK BY THE SAME RULE! WE MUST LIVE BY THE SAME LAW OF THE SPIRIT!
We do not know where the Spirit comes from and whither He would lead us. O yes, we know He comes from the heart of God but here in our daily lives, here in the Land that has to be subdued for God, we fail to recognize this principle. We do not know the course that the Wind of His Spirit will take. We do not know what He has planned and devised. We do not know whither He would lead us. And this causes us to feel very insecure. We want a charted course. But it is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vultures eye hath not seen. And so we would yield so readily to the temptation to chart our own course... or more likely still, to get involved with some kind of religious structure that will do it for us. They are more experienced, so we would find safety under their canopy, under their covering, under their shelter. And so we read their history, how their movement started, and try and convince ourselves that the goals which they hope to reach are valid and scriptural. We think in this way we might discover "from whence the Wind cometh... and whither it goeth." And this may give us a certain sense of security and safety.
But the man of the Spirit Way cannot become fettered with rules and regulations. He must walk in the Spirit. He must find himself in the Wind of the Spirit... in the flow of the River of God. At first, like Ezekiel of old, he will walk hesitatingly into the waters. It is a vast River, and he must tread carefully. A step or two... Then he finds himself in water up to his ankles. The stream is getting more forceful as he moves on, and fear grips his heart. Now the water is up to his knees... now up to his loins. But still he hears the words: "Keep walking... Keep coming to Me... Do not be afraid..." Suddenly he finds he can no longer touch bottom; they are waters "to swim in" and he is swept along in the current.
He has lost control! He is carried along in the current of the River of the Spirit of God! He does not know whence it cometh, and whither it goeth!
But as he is carried along in the flow of the Spirit he begins to lose his fear. He discovers that it is a River of Peace, and that all fears have been swept away. For this River flows out from the heart of God, and will return to the heart of God... and he will return with it. He has found all his springs are in Zion. He has not yet seen the City, except by faith, like Abraham of old, who saw it afar off: a City which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. But though he sees it not, he knows the River is flowing out from the City, and unto the City.
Ezekiel lost his footings when he found "waters to swim in." And so it must be with the people who come into the realm of the Spirit. No longer can we calculate, and plan, and devise, and arrange, and order, and organize, and control...
It is the Way of the Spirit! It is the Way of New Birth! It is the Way of the Wind! We hear the "sound" and that is enough. We know the Voice, and the Voice is assuring. We have not gone this Way before, but He has... and He wants us to walk in the Way that He has prepared.
Do I sense a certain fear in hearts when I say the man of the Spirit has "lost control"? I did not say he is out of control, or that he is not under control. Rather, the Spirit of God is now in control. Is that to be considered dangerous? Or would you feel a little more secure if your carnal mind were to remain in control? Or is some religious organization was to remain in control? Or if some outstanding apostle or prophet was to have the control?
There are so many in the religious world who feel comfortable and secure in the systems of men, and they fear the unknown Way. But the people who have committed their whole way of life to Him, and into the care of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus, shall know the joy and the peace and the rest of the River of God when the heavens and the earth are shaken, and when the mountains are dissolved in the depths of the sea:
"Therefore will not we fear,
Though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried
Into the midst of the sea....
There is a River,
The streams whereof shall make glad
The City of God,
The holy place of the tabernacles
Of the Most High" (Ps. 46:2, 4).
We do not understand all the implications of this. But we do know that when the heavens and the earth are shaken, and the mountains are dissolved in the sea... whether by the devices of men or by the fire of God... there is going to be a people flowing in the River of God, making glad His City, "the Holy Place of the Tabernacles of the Most High."
There is a spirit that controls the course of this world. It is the spirit of Satan, "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in [activates, energizes] the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). He has succeeded in totally captivating the spirits and souls and bodies of men and women, making them to be the "bondslaves of sin" (Rom. 6:17). They think they are FREE but they are not. They are prisoners to the spirit of the world and of Satan. They are totally under his control. Only the Light of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can set them free.
Let us fear that kind of control; and having been delivered from it, let us "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath set us free."
But never let us fear to be caught in the flow of His cleansing, purifying, life-giving River; for it is the River of God, the River of Truth, the River of Freedom, the River of Joy, the River of Wisdom, the River of Knowledge, the River of Life, the River of Love that flows ceaselessly from the heart of God and through the Land of our Inheritance!
THESE WRITINGS ARE PRESENTED BY:
NEW LIFE MINISTRY
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