Who Are You?
George H. Warnock
First Printing: March 1985
Fifth Printing: (Enlarged) August, 1995--Printed in Colombia, South America
C O N T E N T SINTRODUCTION CHAPTER 1 -- The Armies of Heaven CHAPTER 2. -- The Day of the Lord CHAPTER 3. -- The Battle is the Lords CHAPTER 4. -- The Secret of our Victory
CHAPTER 5. -- Discerning Good and Evil
CHAPTER 6. -- Penetrating the HeavenliesCHAPTER 7. -- The Wisdom of the Cross
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:12,13)
This writing is about SPIRITUAL WARFARE, but with particular reference to the Day of the LORD, that great Day of God Almighty, when God assembles all the hordes of evil together in open confrontation with Him who is called "Faithful and True," who leads the armies of Heaven into battle.
I do not write on a regular basis, but only as I feel definitely impressed of the Lord to do so. Therefore I have confidence that God has a people out there who are going to be helped and encouraged and challenged by this word.
These are very awesome times, and it is not mere knowledge or understanding that we really need--not even of the Bible. But we need that creative Word out from the mouth of God, if indeed we are going to be able to embrace it as a living seed that will become PREGNANT within us, and bring forth after its kind.
It was after ministering the substance of this message some weeks ago that I felt very much impressed to put it in writing. I did not know what I was to call it. It was not till I wrote the very last line (though I did add portions here and there throughout the book later) that I suddenly realized what the title was to be. It is a challenge from heavenly places as to our identity. Let us search for our identity in the heavenly Zion. If we do not find it there, whatever we are down here will not matter that much.
-George H. Warnock -- March 15, 1985.
THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
"His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns, and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
"And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
"And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
"And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
"And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." (Rev. 19:11-16).
In this day of fear and anxiety, and distress among nations, how assuring to look into the scriptures and catch a glimpse of Gods war plans, and to know that the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of Heaven is about to break forth on the scene of human depravity and futility, riding upon a white horse of righteousness and power, and leading His armies to battle and to total victory!
How assuring to know in this hour, when mens hearts are failing them for fear, and kings and rulers and presidents of nations are frustrated in their attempt to solve the nuclear arms crisis, and to lay a foundation for peace... to know that there is One who has conquered, and who by Gods decree sits even now at Gods right hand of power and authority, ruling and reigning "in the midst of His enemies"...but who simply awaits Gods time-schedule, and the signal from the throne of the eternal Jehovah-God, to charge forth into battle against the Enemy, and put an end to the reign of evil.
..And to know also that we, if we are accounted to be faithful and true shall be a part of that army that will follow the Son of God as He goes forth to battle in the great Day of God Almighty. These are the people who not only profess to have FAITH and TRUTH; but faithfulness and truthfulness have been wrought into their very being, as they have learned obedience by the things they have suffered, and have followed the Lord in all His ways.
The Church of Jesus Christ was destined and equipped with the armor of God to be a warring Church. We are not denying that she has fought many a valiant war with the forces of evil throughout her long history, but in too many cases she has suffered defeat, either because she knew not the strategy of the Enemy, or because she did not confine herself to those spiritual weapons which God had given her for warfare and for eventual victory. Nevertheless, in and through it all God has not forsaken the declaration of His Son:
"I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
The defeats of the past (and there have been many) do not alter the purposes of God; for in the wisdom of the Cross, God will yet take all the devices of the Evil One, whose intention is to destroy the people of God, and entwine these into His own purposes so that the Enemy will be trapped in his own devices and snared in the very evil that he thought to bring upon Gods chosen ones.
Samsons Ultimate Victory
The story of Samson is going to take on beautiful meaning for those of us who live in the last days. Right now we are almost ashamed to admit that we are part of the "Church" when we see ourselves like Samson: bound by the world-systems of the Philistines, grinding out the corn for the enemies of God, and so blinded in our hearts that we think we are victorious and triumphant in the midst of it all. But one day--and we believe it is beginning to happen--the hairs of Samsons head will grow again, and his strength will be renewed. We are beginning to recognize that God wants us to be distinct and separate people in the earth, "in the world, but not of it." We are beginning to realize that our calling is heavenly, that our warfare is heavenly.
One day as Samsons heart began to turn back to God--in his weakness and in his blindness and in his bondage--he comes to the place where he is prepared to lay down his life, if so be he can be avenged of the Philistines, and bring deliverance to the people of God. "Let me die with the Philistines," he cried, as he leaned upon the pillars in the House of Dagon, and destroyed the hordes of the Philistines in one massive blow. The result was that he slew more in his death, than he had slain throughout his whole life--spectacular and dramatic as many of his activities were in his former years.
Dear ones, we are going to see the true meaning of all this, when the Church of Jesus Christ begins to come to the realization of the greatness of her bondage...
When she realizes she has been so blinded in her understanding, that she did not even know she was a willing tool of the world-system...
When she realizes that she has been grinding out corn for the Philistines, all the while thinking she was working for God...
When her Nazarite vow of separation unto the Lord is renewed, and her hair of glory is restored...
When she suddenly realizes she is the laughing-stock of the world and not her friend...
When she realizes she has been led about by a lad of the Philistines, and not by the hand of God...
And when she is finally prepared to lay down her life, if so be she might know the power of the risen Christ working within her.
"For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2Cor. 4:11)
God is preparing an army, beloved, who will go forth in the Day of the LORD to put an end to the reign of Evil, and to deliver the people of God from their oppressor. They are not being conscripted because they have military or political skills, and know how to get involved in human programs; but because like Samson of old they have discovered the folly and the futility of all this, and are now prepared to learn Gods secrets of warfare. They are a people who are being taught the art of war, and whose only weapons are SPIRITUAL AND HEAVENLY, and "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2Cor. 10:4)
And we are going to discover, as we proceed with this message, that if we are not clothed upon with spiritual armor, and engaging in battle in the Spirit of God in heavenly places, we are not going to know anything but defeat down here in the realms of earth.
THE DAY OF THE LORD
Generally the teaching concerning the coming of the Lord are associated with doctrines about the great tribulation, and controversies as to whether He comes before, during, or after the tribulation. Tribulation seems to be the whole issue. Do we miss it, or do we not? It is clear from the scriptures that the tribulation coincides with the Day of the Lord. It is a time of great trouble and darkness, yes, but it is the dawning of Gods new day--something that Gods people often overlook. Paul tells us:
"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 armor of light" (Rom. 13:12)
Is it not clear from this that the Day of the LORD is more to be desired than the night in which we now live? Who would want to miss out on the light of Gods new day? Especially when He tells us clearly that He has provided for us "The armor of light"? Sure, there will be darkness in the world about us in that day. But it is not called "The night of the Lord." It is Gods DAY! This alone should cause Gods people to stop and consider in their hearts: "Really, now... why do I want to miss that DAY to which all the prophets referred, and which is mentioned frequently in the New Testament as the hope of Gods people?"
"For yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the LORD so cometh as a thief in the night." (1Thess. 5:2). But we must not stop there. "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that DAY Should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs 4-9) Is it not very clear from this passage that we have no appointment with the wrath of God, because of the armor that we put on, the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of salvation? Because we are fully equipped with Gods armor, and not because he snatches us out of the battle?
Note the battle dress of Gods people in the Day of the LORD: It is the "armor of light," "the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation." GOD HAS PROVIDED ARMOR FOR HIS PEOPLE--NOT WINGS! And if we know these things, God help us all to put on "the whole armor of God." God wants a people who are prepared for battle, and the armor He provides is totally sufficient for us to "stand in the evil day." (See Ephesians 6:10-18)
This is a Day of Mixture
The Day of the LORD will deal with this horrible corruption that abounds in the land, and especially with the MIXTURE that has characterized the people of God. Often are we tainted with the corruption of the world, because we dwell in the very midst of it, and are not always aware of the effect it is having on our minds and spirits. Jesus warned us that because of the abundance of iniquity about us, the love of many would "wax cold." It is easy to slip into the way of the world, not realizing the world and its systems are the enemies of God, and he that would be "a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4)
We need to pray that God will show forth such a display and weight of His glory in our midst that we will be able to reprove the world of sin, as we ought to be doing. I do not mean by much talk, and pointing the finger of accusation: I mean by so living and expressing the life of Christ in the world, that the world is confronted with the all-seeing eye of God, and knows that it is God Himself who is reproving them "of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (Jn. 16:8) Without this display of His glory, how helpless we are! And so the best we know is to try to get the legislators on our side, and try to cut off the little twigs and branches of degradation that continue to break forth on the corrupt tree of our society. But unless the tree is cut down--for every twig of corruption we try to nip in the bud, two more will grow in their place. Gods plan is to cut down the tree! And we who know our God, and know what the Day of the LORD is all about, will rejoice when the Lord creates darkness and evil for the workers of evil, and brings forth light and peace, to the lovers of truth. For He has declared:
"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. Drop down, yea heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together" (Isa. 45:7,8). This is what the Day of the LORD is all about!
God hates a mixture, and He appeals to His people to make a difference between the clean and the unclean, to know the nature of good and evil, and to draw the line between light and darkness:
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter" (Isa. 5:20).
Once again, in this Day of the LORD that comes swiftly upon us, God is going to "divide the light from the darkness." Once again the light will be called day, and the darkness will be called night.
Only the revelation of His glory can do this. Try as we may to get into the political arena with a shovel, to shovel out the darkness, the darkness will remain... and will continue to get darker. Try as we may to agitate, and march, and harass the workers of iniquity, we accomplish nothing. When light is rejected, darkness is the inevitable result. And as we shall observe later in this message, if light is persistently rejected, God Himself will send even greater and greater darkness, to the point where men do not know the difference, and evil is called good, and darkness is called light.
This is a Day of Deception
God tells us that the time will come when He Himself will "send strong delusion, that they should believe a lie (or, THE LIE)." (2Thess. 2:11). And the reason is clearly stated: "Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved" (vs 10). Consistent and persistent rebellion against God causes God to withdraw His restraining hand of grace, thus adding to and multiplying the darkness that is already there. In this sense only does God "create evil." It is Gods Judgment against iniquity. And whether we are believer or unbeliever, this ought to impart within us all a godly fear. A little bit of disobedience on our part can produce a measure of darkness. God be merciful unto us in that hour--that we might recognize the darkness, and hurry back into His arms, His outstretched arms of love and forgiveness. It is frightening to behold men and women, whom we thought to have known the Lord in a very real way... slipping away into areas of deception and darkness that are utterly foreign to the love of the truth. Somewhere Satan found a foothold, and gradually enlarged upon it, until it might almost appear there is no longer any hope for them.
How endless a task we would have on our hands if we were to begin naming all the different areas of deception! Gods provision and antidote for this danger is for you and me to walk in truth. Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn 8:32). But we do feel to mention this evil of divorce that is running rampant these days; and to warn Gods people especially that Satan is promoting this avalanche of divorce and unfaithfulness that is overwhelming the Church. The Christian home is a miniature "church," and the Enemy knows if he is victorious in the home, he is automatically victorious in the Church. We must guard against the deception that is overwhelming many, as husband and wife are believing the lie that they do not have their proper spiritual mate--that God never did really join them together--it was their own mistake, and they must find the one that God ordained for them. We have been told from different sources that witches and wizards are praying and fasting for the break-up of the Christian home. Let us not be found in the number of those who are blaming God for the attack of witches and wizards.
I do not stand in judgment on Gods people. I know very often an innocent party is involved, and innocent children are often the victims. Complex situations have come as a result of marriages that took place when one or both parties were not born again. All I can say is, if you are caught in tangled situations where you do not know the way out...God is still able to bring order out of chaos, and bring you into a place of REST in Him as you seek His will for your life, and come to that place of total commitment. And if you are the guilty one, there is hope for you too--and grace. But the first step out from your bondage will be your admission that God is right, and you are wrong. And then we have this conditional promise,--
"God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the Devil" (2Tim. 2:25,26) If you insist on your innocence, and hold to the deception that "God led me to do it"--this can only lead into greater deception. Once you can say from your heart, God you are RIGHT and I am WRONG, then the Bible says, "peradventure" you will discover the grace of repentance. For remember, repentance is not something you can do just anytime you feel like it... or postpone it until you have acquired what you want in your disobedience. God must provide the grace for it, if it is to be truly redemptive and genuine in nature.
We are talking about one area of deception that has overwhelmed many of Gods people, and how prevalent it has become in the Church. And I think it is evident that this tendency to unfaithfulness in the home has come from the enticements of the world about us. Paul tells us that through the working of the Cross he was "crucified unto the world," and the "world was crucified unto him" (See Gal. 6:14). This is the real problem. Most of us in the Church have not known, or recognized, or cared enough to pursue this kind of identification with the Cross of Christ. "The offence of the Cross" has just about ceased! Modern evangelism has pretty well represented the Cross of Jesus as the easy way out for you and me. Jesus died on His cross... so it is assumed there is no cross for the rest of us to carry. The word "offence" is "skandalon" in the Greek, from which we get our English word "scandal." The scandal of the cross is scarcely there any longer--especially in our western world. We do not want to become an object of the scandal that comes when we take up our cross and follow Him. And so we join the world, thinking the world will like us, and will no longer consider that we are really too much different from them. "You can join our church, and still have lots of fun. You can serve God, and still have a good time... God intends it that way." But James warns us:
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4). What an indictment! We say we must be friends of the world in order to win them. God says if you do that, youre His enemy!
When the king of Moab could not persuade Balaam the sorcerer to curse the people of God (for God took control of his tongue, without changing his heart...God can do that, you know... Just the day before He had taken control of the asss tongue without changing his heart...)--Do you know what Balaam did? He suggested that Balak invite the people of God to one of their wild parties, and get them that way. And it worked! Thousands of them fell into the snare, as they corrupted themselves with the charms and the snares of the gods of Moab, and the people of God were defiled.
He who stands in the midst of His people with eyes as a flame of fire, is coming to purge the people of God from the doctrine of Balaam. Lord, baptize us afresh--with the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire!
Gods Glory comes to His Temple
People of God, let us continue to cry out for His glory to return to His Temple... for the shining forth of His Presence in our midst. But beloved, let us understand the implications of Gods glory coming back to dwell in the midst of His people. He can bless us from Heaven, and pour forth His gifts upon us, in our carnal condition. But when He comes in the fullness of His abiding Presence in our midst, IT IS THAT HE MIGHT BE OUR CAPTAIN AND LORD. He comes to cleanse and purge His people. He comes to take control. And therefore, desirable as all this may be, let us understand it is also a very fearful thing.
It was just after the glory of the LORD had passed through the hosts of Israel (in the mighty baptism of the cloud), that Egypt was suddenly confronted with Gods Judgments. The glory that was a light to the people of God suddenly became gross darkness to the enemy. God had divided the light from the darkness--so that the enemy came not near the people of God all night long.
It was right after the glory of the LORD had appeared to the congregation in the wilderness, and Gods fire burst forth from His presence to consume the burnt offering of His people... that Nadab and Abihu decided they would make a little fire of their own. "They took either of them his censer, and put fire therein... and offered strange fire before the LORD." Immediately they were consumed by the devouring fire of Gods glory. (See Lev. 10:1,2).
Now what was wrong with the incense they offered? Were they not doing it before the Lord? But thats not the question. They were doing something that God had not directed them to do... something "which He commanded them not" (vs. 1). God had not authorized it!
When, beloved, are we going to come to the place where we recognize we are here only to do what God bids us to... nothing more and nothing less? Whether you or I think it would be a good thing to do matters nothing. What is Gods will in the matter? "How do I know Gods will?" someone may ask. It comes to us as we seek Him. Sometimes we know not how: the still small voice of God, something from the Word, some kind of confirmation from this source or another. But it is something that God is honor-bound to show us when we "present our bodies a living sacrifice" and are totally committed to do His will.
I really believe if Gods glory were to suddenly come into our midst in this hour, we would have multitudes falling dead in the pulpit or in the aisles of our churches, as happened to Ananias and Sapphira in the early Church. Have you ever considered how insignificant their sin would be looked upon today in our eyes? They sold some property, and gave most of it to the Church... perhaps nine-tenths of it! But they kept the smaller portion for a rainy-day, and brought the rest to the apostles. What was their sin? That they did not give it all? Not really. It was just that they gave the impression they were giving all. Peter told them that they "lied not to men, but to the Holy Ghost"! In their silence concerning what they did, they were giving the impression they were giving their all as the others were doing. They were lying to the Holy Ghost!
O if Gods people could only recognize the implications of the Day of the LORD, and of His glory coming to abide in His Temple! Gone would be the entertainment and the gimmicks that are used today to bring people to Jesus! Satan fears nothing when he sees the people of God going forth TO BATTLE with carnal weapons... musical groups doing their thing to the applause of large audiences... rock musicians skillfully using the art of Satan all nicely cloaked with words about Jesus and Heaven and the Bible... drama troupes coming forth from missionary training centers with a cast depicting God and Jesus and the Devil on the same platform, trying to trick people into hearing the gospel... puppet ministries acting out the gospel with little puppet monkeys or puppet devils, and the like... magicians showing their illusionary tricks to the applause of an audience that some "church" group hired to trap people into hearing the "gospel." I know of one instance where a young boy in a Sunday school class had to be delivered from the oppression of spirits, after he had watched the clever manipulations of a "puppet-ministry" in a Sunday school class. And all this--not in some old, dead apostate church, but in large charismatic churches where people love to praise and worship and sing in the Spirit and dance before the Lord!
O Lord, how can these--and even greater abominations than these, come into your temple, and the people of God who know and have experienced your blessings, and have spiritual gifts functioning in their midst--sit in the congregation and applaud and laugh, and think they are promoting the work of the Lord?
The Day of the LORD is at hand, the day of His glory, and "eyes like a flame of fire" are going to consume the dross from the silver pot of Gods refining flame. God says that His judgments must first begin at the house of God. We anticipate the day of His glory. But even as we do, let us humble ourselves now in His presence lest His light shine upon us suddenly, and we be found naked. For He says to you and me and Gods people everywhere who have known His workings in times past....
"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Rev. 2:5).
I speak not as a judge, but as one who grew up under the shadow of Pentecost, and had a little understanding of what happened in those early beginnings, and the glory that was there. I do not mean from personal experience, because it was before my time--but I was close to it. I was born in a second generation of Pentecost, and regretted that I had missed out on the original glory that I knew was there. This used to bother me until I came to realize many years later that God had something for His people that was beyond Pentecost. I still cherish that Hope, and I know that God will do exceeding and abundantly above all we can ask or think. It is difficult to sense the reality of the anointing and presence of God just by reading about it; but for those not familiar with the glory of those early days, let us reprint an excerpt from the writing of a man whom the Lord used in those times. (The Azusa that is mentioned was the name of a street in Los Angeles, where this particular outpouring took place).
"The spirit of song given from God in the beginning was like the Aeolian harp in its spontaneity and sweetness. In fact it was the very breath of God, playing on human heart strings, or human vocal chords. The notes were wonderful in sweetness, volume and duration. In fact they were oft-times humanly impossible. It was indeed singing in the Spirit.
"...We had no pope or hierarchy. We were brethren. We had no human program; the Lord Himself was leading. We had no priest class, nor priest craft. These things have come in later, with the apostatizing of the movement. We did not even have a platform or pulpit in the beginning. All were on a level. The ministers were servants, according to the true meaning of the word. We did not honor men for their advantage in means or education, but rather for their God-given gifts. He set the members in the Body.
"Now a wonderful and horrible thing is come to pass in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jer. 5:30,31).
"The services ran almost continuously. Seeking souls could be found under the power almost any hour of the night or day. The place was never closed nor empty. The people came to meet God... He was always there. Hence a continuous meeting. The meeting did not depend on the human leader. Gods presence became more and more wonderful. In that old building, with its low rafters and bare floors, God took strong men and women to pieces, and put them together again, for His glory. It was a tremendous overhauling process. Pride and self-assertion, self-importance and self-esteem could not survive there. The religious ego preached its own funeral sermon quickly.
"No subjects or sermons were announced ahead of time, and no special speakers for such an hour. No one knew what might be coming, what God would do. All was spontaneous, ordered of the Spirit. We wanted to hear from God, through whomever He might speak. We had no respect of persons. The rich and educated were the same as the poor and ignorant, and found a much harder death to die. We only recognized God. All were equal. No flesh might glory in His presence. He could not use the self-opinionated. Those were Holy Ghost meetings, led of the Lord. It had to start in poor surroundings, to keep out the selfish, human element. All came down in humility together at His feet. They all looked alike and had all things in common, in that sense at least. The rafters were low, the tall must come down. By the time they got to Azusa they were humbled, ready for the blessing. The fodder was thus placed for the lambs, not for giraffes. All could reach it.
"We were delivered right there from ecclesiastical hierarchism and abuse. We wanted God. When we first reached the meeting, we avoided as much as possible human contact and greeting. We wanted to meet God first. We got our head under some bench in the corner in prayer, and met men only in the Spirit, knowing them after the flesh no more.
"All obeyed God, in meekness and humility. In honor we preferred one another. The Lord was liable to burst through anyone. We prayed for this continually. Someone would finally get up anointed for the message. It might be from the back seat for from the front. It made no difference...
"Someone might be speaking. Suddenly the Spirit would fall upon the congregation. God Himself would give the altar call. Men would fall all over the house, like the slain in battle, or rush for the altar en masse to seek God. The scene often resembled a forest of fallen trees...
"When God spoke, we all obeyed. It seemed a fearful thing to hinder or grieve the Spirit... God was in His holy temple. It was for man to keep silent." (From "Another Wave Rolls In"--by Frank Bartlemen).
I am not saying, "lets go back to Pentecost." I am saying, "Let us GO ON!" But if we are to GO ON, we must GO BACK to that dedication and commitment that they knew in those days. Pentecost was a harvest of firstfruits. If the glory we once knew was firstfruits...then we anticipate that it was but the foretaste of the glory that we shall know at harvest time, at the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Ingathering.
When we speak of "Pentecost" of course, we are referring to the scriptural Pentecost, and not to any denomination or group of people that use that name. Too often what we see today is but the empty shell... or as a former pastor used to say, "...All that was left of the dove when it had flown away,"--referring to the horrible famine in Samaria in the days of Elisha, when they were feeding upon "doves dung" and the "asss head"--and paying good silver pieces for it. (See 2kgs 6:25).
The Day of the LORD, a Day of Darkness
The day of darkness is the inevitable result of Gods glory coming into the midst of His people. And so of course there is tribulation, for the haters of truth will certainly rise up against the light. There was no real reproof of sin in the earth until Jesus came on the scene. But when He came as a Light into the world, the lovers of darkness grew more intensely hateful against Him whose very presence angered them. Egypt never knew such darkness in her history as in the day of redemption for Gods people. And as that day drew nigh we are told: "There was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: they saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings" (Ex. 10:22,23).
And so, whenever the Lord would rise up on behalf of His people, and went before them against the enemy, there always seemed to be a blending of His glory with desolation and judgment: "A day of darkness and gloominess..." Why? Because "the morning" is "spread upon the mountains" as Gods "great people" align themselves for battle. And "all faces gather blackness..." Why? Because "The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the LORD shall utter His voice before His army; for His camp is very great: for He is strong that executeth His word..." (See Joel 2:2-11). It seems so unlike God; and it seems so unlike His people who walk in love and truth. But what is it all about? Here is a people so disciplined by the Cross, and walking in such love and truth that they become a torment to those who walk in darkness. Dont think for one moment that the reason we live in ease and contentment is because our society is a democratic one. It is rather BECAUSE WE LACK THE GLORY OF GOD THAT TORMENTS THE WORKERS OF EVIL. Our feeble marches and protests are just accepted by the masses as the democratic right of the people. But in that day there will be open persecution. And Gods judgments will fall as the sharp sword of the Word goes forth from hearts that have known rejection, humiliation, weakness, and poverty of spirit.
There is no darkness or evil in God. But when light is rejected, there is darkness. When love is rejected, there is hate. When peace is rejected (the Prince of Peace), there is war.
We read in the scriptures how the sun will be turned into blackness, and moon into blood. It is because God has arisen out of His holy habitation (the Church) to judge the world for their iniquity:
"The sun and the moon shall be darkened; and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake" (Joel 3:15-16). Paul tells us that the heaven-quakes and the earth-quakes signify that God is shaking everything that can be shaken, so that the things which cannot be shaken may remain, steadfast and sure. (See Heb. 12:27-28).
The Day of the Lord, a Day of Famine
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD" (Amos 8:11).
God said He would take away "the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator" (Isa. 3:1-3).
Theological seminaries and schools of religious training will be empty. No longer will the ministry be something that our young people will aspire after. The prophets and the seers will be ashamed to be called one of Gods ministers, or a leader of the people. They will excuse themselves by saying, "I will not be a healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people." (Isa. 3:7). He is confessing, "Im sorry, but I cant help you." And the reason for this kind of famine? "Because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of His glory" (vs 8).
"Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God" (Mic. 3:6,7).
What kind of prophets were these? The kind that are telling Gods people that all is well, that they will not see tribulation,--God loves them too much for that...the kind that have discovered the ministry to be a financial bonanza when they give prophecies of peace. The kind that will prophesy good things to those who put something in their mouths, but show contempt for those who refuse. "And he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him" (Mic. 3:5). Listen to this: "Now everyone in the audience who wants me to pronounce the blessing of the Lord upon your life, just stand and come forward with a thousand dollars, and God will give you the blessing of Abraham." Then the amounts are reduced, for a somewhat lesser blessing. "Who will bring five hundred dollars, for the blessing of David?" or, "Who will bring two hundred... one hundred..." Perhaps a small blessing may be available to the one who can only afford a ten dollar bill! The tragedy is that there are so many gullible people out there in the Church, who "love to have it so."
Dear ones, God has to send a famine in the land when He sees abominations like these. But in the midst of it all there will be the true prophets of the LORD, like Micah of old, who are "full of power by the Spirit of the LORD, and of judgment (justice), and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin" (Mic. 3:8).
The Day of the LORD, the Day of Confusion
"Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are come upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit, shall be taken in the snare" (Isa. 24:17,18).
Go ahead and build your bomb-shelters, and your mountain hide-outs, and stack them well with food and water and guns. In that day you will discover that the treasure you have accumulated for the day of trouble will avail nothing. Far better if you would distribute your excess wealth now to places of need, and in so doing "lay up treasure in Heaven," and find your habitation in God:
"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast" (Isa. 26:20).
Your refuge in doctrines about the second coming that promise safety and security will be swept away when the hailstones of God begin to fall. No wonder the teachers and the prophets and those who assure the people that God will snatch them away from it all, will scramble for safety in that day, and find none:
"And the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place" (Isa. 28:17).
And yet in the midst of all the tribulation the people who have found their refuge in God shall rejoice in their God...
"Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the Mighty One of Israel..." (Isa. 30:29). When and where is all this joy? In the very time of the LORDs wrath: "And the LORD shall cause His glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of His arm, with the indignation of His anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones" (vs. 30).
The Day of the LORD, a Day of Humbling
"The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day" (Isa. 2:11).
It is the day when God brings all men down to one common level. "Every mountain and hill shall be made low"...whether it be in the Church, or in the world. (See Isa. 40:1-5).
"The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth" (Isa. 23:9). There are some honorable men who bow at the foot of the Cross, but Paul tells us they are few in number: "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (1Cor. 1:26).
When the glory of the LORD comes to His Temple, it is to "stain the pride of all glory" in His people, in each of us... not only by bowing once at the foot of the Cross for the remission of sins, but in taking up our cross and following Him.
The Day of the LORD, a Day of Cleansing
"And the Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant... But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like refiners fire, and like fullers soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness" (Mal. 3:1-3).
Gods Holy Spirit has been given to us to make us HOLY; and His people are yet to become "holiness unto the LORD." How and when is this to happen? "When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion... by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (Isa. 4:4).
Do we really want to manifest the light of God to a world that sits in darkness? We are not going to do it, beloved, by preaching and talking about it; but only by submitting ourselves to the SPIRIT OF JUDGMENT, and THE SPIRIT OF BURNING. Then will the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives be a flaming fire that will shine forth in this world of sin and darkness.
"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" (Isa. 4:5).
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. 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. 60:1).
Darkness and light, brethren, and at one and the same time. His glory shall be seen, and not merely talked about. And when men see it, one of two things will happen: they will walk in the light, or they will turn away into greater darkness than they have ever known. His glory will draw the line that separates day and night, truth and error, good and evil.
The Day Of the LORD, the Day of Vengeance
Vengeance for what? For His Temple. God has a controversy with Zion. And after the cleansing of Zion He will deal with Babylon... that system that has captivated His people and prevented them from becoming His own dwelling place in the earth. God through eternal ages has desired a dwelling place for Himself, and that is why He made man in the beginning. Any teaching, any structure, any system (name or no name, denominational or non-denominational) that promotes any kind of mediator between the individual and his God, other than the one Mediator, who is the Lord Jesus Christ... you can be sure it bears the stamp of Babylon. And God continues to cry, "Come out of her, my people..." Babylon wants to keep the people of God unified under some system, to keep them together, and to keep them under her control. Babylon wants unity. Babylon wants to make a name for herself.
God wants a people for Himself, and for Himself only. He is a jealous God, and will not share His glory with another.
Jesus said, "For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled" (Lk. 21:22).
Vengeance for what? It is the vengeance of His Temple: "Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORDs vengeance... because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance of His temple" (See Jer. 51:6,11).
Babylon is the whole world system, religious as well as political. She has brought the people of God under her sway, so that they are no longer able to serve Him in His holy Temple, and worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, free from the rulership of kings... and giving the Lord Jesus total Lordship in their lives. The purpose of true ministry before the Lord is to bring this about, to enhance ones individual freedom and relationship with the Lord. The spirit of Babylon would seek to extend the lordship of MAN, under the guise of Divine order.
THE BATTLE IS THE LORDS
In this great conflict that rages between the forces of good and evil we must understand the simple pattern of warfare that God has sent forth in His Word for the ultimate triumph of the people of God. And we must be assured that "the battle is the LORDs," and not ours. Failing to see and understand some of these simple principles can only lead to prolonged frustration and perplexity, as we seek to stop the flood of iniquity that has broken forth upon the people of God.
Too long has the Church of Jesus Christ been on the defensive. In fact, victory for Gods people has generally been looked upon from a negative standpoint, even by the positive thinkers in the Church. Just know how to ward off the attack of the Enemy... just hold your own... find how to get healed from some physical ailment, or recover from some spiritual setback. Well and good. But the hour is at hand when God would mobilize His army for a final and decisive onslaught against the gates of Hell, so that His Church may come forth from the battle in total victory and triumph. We should say... that the forthcoming battle is the conclusive one, for the decisive battle has already been fought and won. When Jesus died on the Cross, He there and then "spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15). It was there on the Cross that Christ "through death" destroyed him "that had the power of death, that is, the Devil" (Heb. 2:14). But the battle we speak of is the conclusive battle... the day and hour in which God will EXECUTE THE SENTENCE that was passed at the Cross, and crush the hosts of evil under our feet:
"And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Rom. 16:20).
There are Two Panoplies
The scriptures speak of two complete sets of armor: that of Gods people, and that of the Enemy. The Greek word is "panoplia," from which we get our seldom used English word "panoply." The word is used only twice in the New Testament: its first occurrence referring to Satans panoply, and its second occurrence referring to ours.
"When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armor (panoplia) wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils" (Lk. 11:22).
"Put on the whole armor (panoplia) of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil... Wherefore take unto you the whole armor (panoplia) of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:11,13).
Notice that there are two strong men, and the stronger man does three things:
(1) Overcomes the strong man.
(2) Takes away the panoply of the strong man.
(3) Divides the spoils of the strong man.
(1) Overcoming the Strong Man
This kind of victory goes far, far beyond the ordinary concept of victory--somehow just surviving, just holding our own, making a successful excursion against the Enemy and then scurrying back to the fox-hole for safety. Our Lord is not coming for a defeated Church, but for one that is glorious and triumphant. Now I know that Christ triumphed at the Cross, but His Church still grovels in defeat--much as she may enjoy her victory marches, and sing about her victories.
Now Christ fully triumphed at the Cross. There Satan was robbed not only of his power (dunamis),--his ability to perform his works of evil; but also of his authority (exousia),--his right to dominate the Adamic race, and the kingdoms of this world. And so Jesus said to His disciples, "Behold, I give unto you power (exousia) to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power (dunamis) of the enemy" (Lk. 10:19). And before He went away He promised that they would be "endued with power (dunamis) from on high" (Lk. 24:49). Satans panoply has been taken from him; for Christ "spoiled" principalities and powers, when He died on the Cross (Col. 2:15). The word "spoiled" means He "unclothed" them--He took away their battle dress... He denuded them.
How then can he continue to harass and torment the world, and the people of God? He has done so by magnifying the darkness that is in him, and in this way devastating the world and the people of God with all those attributes of darkness: fear, torment, unbelief, strife, contention, malice, hate, division... and we could go on and on in this; and it is all a kind of DECEPTION of one form or another. Of course this has been very effective from his standpoint; and the whole world lies in the grip of "the god of this world" (his religious title), and "the prince of the power of the air" (his political title). His real panoply of POWER and AUTHORITY has been taken away; so now he continues to strengthen, even since the Cross, his panoply of DARKNESS; but it is all a lie, and it is only in the area of darkness and deception that he can do this. He succeeds, because "men love darkness rather than light." He succeeds, because even we as believers find ourselves entertaining ideas which the enemy plants their in our carnal minds. Our warfare, therefore, consists of putting on "the whole armor of God." and thereby denying the Enemy any foothold within us. And with this divine panoply from God, this total battle dress, this complete armor... God has assured His people of total victory. The whole world lies in the lap of "wickedness," or more emphatically, "the evil one" (1Jn. 5:19); and "the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (2Cor. 4:4). Only the ministration of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit can remove this blindness from the hearts of men, enabling them to believe. And may God help us to understand (and we will be enlarging upon it later)... that the ministration of the gospel goes far, far beyond declaring a message, or writing and talking about it. It involves a people penetrating the world of darkness by coming into association with the powers of the heavenly realm, and becoming acquainted and known of God in the citadel of Zion. Only then are we able to loosen the shackles from the hearts and minds of men. You cannot talk men out of their blindness... and certainly you are not going to do it by entertaining them with frivolity. There has to come about a healing... scales have to be removed from their eyes.
(2) Taking Away the Strong Mans Panoply
This is what Jesus did at the Cross. But in his defeat, Satan continues to cloak himself with the armor of darkness and deception; and these have become very formidable weapons in his hands. Not understanding that these are Satans only weapons, the people of God have gone all-out in their efforts to acquire great and formidable (?) weapons to oppose him, and his kingdom remains as strong as ever. With all our efforts, coupled with all the resources of our modern technology (over which the Enemy continues to hold dominion), we have failed to make any real impact upon the forces of evil that rule the world. The reason is quite evident: we have not realized that his only weapons are those which operate in areas of deception and darkness: fear, hate, torment, contention, strife, and so forth. And yet we go our way preaching the "gospel," with these attributes of darkness still in our hearts. And thinking He has great power, we go about seeking to match weapon with weapon, numbers with numbers, resources with resources, tactics with tactics, strategy with strategy. He calls the shots, and Gods people get excited and begin to snipe back. If he comes against us with what appears to be a powerful weapon, we will try to outmatch him. If he comes against us with some new technique, we are right there to meet his challenge, hopefully with something comparable or better. If he rises up against us with a great host, we will do what we can to rally a greater host to come against him. If he marches... we will organize a greater march, hoping to out-maneuver him. In other words, we try to come against him with his own kind of weapons, and he is not at all impressed. What does he care about your little shows, and entertainment, and your cute dramatic presentations of the gospel? He is only slightly amused, and sits in the congregation applauding with the rest of them.
We have yet to discover the way of the Cross. We have yet to know that one man can chase a thousand, and that two can put ten thousand to flight, if we are walking in the ways of the Lord. We have yet to learn that a people of God, clothed upon with the "armor of light" is Gods only antidote for evil.
(3) Dividing the Spoils of the Strong Man
This is the third aspect of the victory of the Cross. We are to take the "spoils" out of the hands of the Enemy. The spoils are nothing less than the bodies and souls and spirits of men. Satans goods "are in peace" as long as Gods people are in turmoil... as long as he is able to hold dominion over the hearts of men. He knows his kingdom is sure as long as the people of God mix religion with entertainment and gimmicks and politics and keep very much involved with the ways of the world.
But our Lord has triumphed, and patiently does He rule and reign upon the throne of His glory "in the midst of His enemies"--even as God has decreed. He waits expectantly for the day when "all His enemies are subdued under His feet"...the day when His people shall be "willing"--the day of His power.
The people of God are not only to enter their Canaan heritage, and then stand on the border of it and boast about what they have got. They must drive out the Enemy, and POSSESS that territory, and PARTAKE of the fruit of their spiritual heritage. Caleb exhorted the people in so many words..."dont be afraid of the Enemy... if God delight in us He will bring us in... they shall be our bread and butter." How little have we known of the fruits of victory in Christ Jesus!
How quickly would God bring us into our inheritance if we would but humble ourselves in His presence, and walk in obedience: in love, in truth, in meekness, and in the unity of the Spirit. Of course, we all acknowledge that these virtues would be nice to have. We will keep these things in mend and hopefully some day get more of them. But in the meantime we are in a war against the Devil, and we are not going to get too involved about those things right now--we are too busy fighting the Devil. And all the while we have this attitude we are failing to realize that these attributes of light, and love, and truth, and obedience--these are the only weapons that are going to defeat the Devil. He fears nothing when we seek to tear down his kingdom with our own human zeal, our eloquent sermons, our Church activities and programs--entertainments, nice musical presentations, dramatic renditions--all these carnally devised schemes and gimmicks that are formulated today for the propagation of the gospel.
But he fears greatly when he sees a people learning to walk in the way of the Cross!
Keeping the Unity of the Spirit
There is a divine order in the scriptures for coming into the full stature of Christ; and the apostle admonishes us to "keep the unity of the Spirit" as God progressively leads us on to the fullness of the truth. (See Eph. 4:1-15). In all of our seeking for more and more of the fullness of Christ in His people, we are assured of Gods help and direction if we will walk in the Spirit, and learn how to foster and maintain "the unity of the Spirit" in our midst. First and foremost it means that we must acknowledge the Lordship of the Spirit in our lives and do nothing that will grieve Him.
But let us remember: it is not just "unity" that God is after. Babylon wants that too. God wants "the unity of the Spirit." He requires that we walk in union with the Spirit of Christ. This means we are to be speaking what He is speaking, doing what He is doing, protesting against the evil in His people when He is protesting against the evil in His people; it means we are to weep over the erring ones, when He is weeping over the erring ones. God wants us to be ONE in the Spirit; and like the dove which represents Him, he wants us to fly away from it all when His people refuse to walk with Him. When the Spirit of God has been crowded out of His temple, we have no choice but to follow... yet as true priests of the Lord we long for the day when once again we will behold the beauty of the Lord in His house.
THE SECRET OF OUR VICTORY
Israel was a natural nation, a natural people, and they indulged frequently in natural warfare, even at the command of the LORD. They were simply executing the judgments of God upon the idolatrous practices of the heathen nations round about them. In our day we might be inclined to view ancient Israels wars as genocidal, and it is hard for a lot of people to believe that the Christians Jehovah-God was the Jehovah-God of war in the Old Testament. The fact is that God had a plan for the earth for many centuries to come, and had He not intervened in that day to wipe out the almost unthinkable and unprintable practices of heathen nations surrounding Israel, any semblance of an orderly society might have ceased to exist long ago. The same can be said of the day in which we live. If God does not intervene shortly to put an end to the abominations perpetrated today (not in heathen, Muslim, or Communist regimes, but in our so called Christian democracies) our society could very quickly be swallowed up in total anarchy and corruption. It is only His grace that forestalls the inevitable doom awaiting this generation, as He prepares a people to show forth His glory and His power in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation.
As Christians of the New Covenant era we must be assured that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2Cor. 10:4). Yet even as we look into the Old Testament we can discover the art of spiritual warfare, and the secret of victory that God has for us in this hour. We will learn that the Captain of our salvation goes before us, and that the plans and strategies of our warfare are His, and His only. We will learn that Gods ways are vastly different from ours; and that, foolish as they may seem to be, it is only as we walk in His ways that we are going to emerge triumphant in the day of battle. So let us observe the strategy of our warfare and the secret of our victory, as typified in some of Israels natural struggles in the Old Testament:
(1) Israel at the Red Sea
When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, and bore them "on eagles wings" from the clutches of the enemy, He led them to a dead-end in the wilderness--right up against the Red Sea. He did so on purpose; and His purpose was twofold. First, He would entice the enemy to their doom, for they would boast, "We have them now! Theres no place for them to go...!" But secondly, He would test the obedience and faith of the people of God. All they could see was the Red Sea, and the menacing hordes of the Egyptians behind them. God wanted them to see and behold His faithfulness and His wisdom, and to know that the way of the sea would also become the way of victory.
Now "the secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him,"--and as we consider Gods pattern of victory here, may the Lord cause us to know that every dead-end in the pathway of obedience will lead us to a new way of life in the purposes of God. He wants us to discover the secret of standing still, and seeing the salvation of the LORD. But He also wants us to know that our encampment at the Red Sea in the will of God, where there is no place to go, no way to turn, is intended in the plan and purpose of God to bring about a defeat of our enemies, which we would not have known without this wilderness experience. He could have led them a different way; and you and I would perhaps not have chosen the way we have walked if we had been in control of our lives, and could have seen the end from the beginning. But somehow He led us this way, and the purpose is that He might be glorified. There may have been failure and disobedience on our part. And Let us be quick to acknowledge that. But He would teach us also that out of every failure and disobedience He will yet be glorified, if we will now learn to walk in obedience... if we will "stand still and see the salvation of the LORD."
And consequently they were able to sing the Song of Moses:
"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).
Where were they overthrown? In the Red Sea! In the place of their dead-end walk with God. In the place of their extremity. In the place of their perplexity. In the place of their utter hopelessness.
(2) Israel at the River Jordan
When Israel crossed the Red Sea, they were in fact being "baptized unto Moses, in the cloud, and in the sea" (1Cor. 10:2). In type, therefore, it speaks of our baptism into Christ: in water, and in the Spirit. But when this generation failed to enter into the land of their inheritance through disobedience, God raised up a new generation that would succeed. They were now under new leadership, Joshua; and before they could possess their inheritance some very detailed instructions were given them concerning the crossing of the Jordan, in preparation for the conquest of Canaan. The priests bearing the ark of the Covenant were to dip their feet in the waters of Jordan, and as they did the waters would be swept back so the people could go over on dry land. The priests would then stand in the bottom of the Jordan while the people passed by. Twelve stones were to be erected on the bottom of the Jordan as a pillar, and twelve stones likewise were to be taken up from the bottom of the river and erected as a pillar on the western bank. In type we have a picture of the nation being identified with Christ in His death and resurrection. But there was more to this "baptism" than that. For when they had set up camp on the western bank there had to be a new circumcision. This new generation had not been circumcised in the wilderness, and they still carried "the reproach of Egypt" with them. The stain, the reproach, the burden, and the very memory of the old life in Egypt must be "rolled away" at Gilgal, for that is the meaning of the word "Gilgal." Circumcision, then, becomes another aspect of Christian baptism. Water baptism (especially here in the Western world) is presented as a beautiful ceremony, and the crowds are especially invited to come and witness it. It can only be because the true meaning of baptism is not known or realized, or fulfilled in the lives of Gods people. We can accept Christian baptism, and get along very happily with the world about us. Not so in the early Church, and in some of the nations of the world today. In that day it meant a "cutting off." It meant in actual fact and experience, identification with the Cross of Christ. "Circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism..." (Col. 2:11,12).
It meant from that day forward you were an enemy of the world, because the world was the enemy of God. It was in fact a marriage ceremony in which you said, "I take you, Lord Jesus, to be my lawfully wedded Husband, to have and to hold, to love and to obey... and forsaking all others..." How often have we committed adultery with the world in this relationship!
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4).
The soldiers in Gods army have got to experience the full implications of baptism. Coming out of Egypt meant for Israel a baptism "in the cloud and in the sea." Perhaps it was sufficient for them in their wilderness journeys. But to conquer the seven strong nations of Canaan we, like Israel of old, must know and experience the dreadful implications of our baptism: identification with Christ in the cutting off of the old Adamic life, that we might rise to walk with Him "in newness of life." We thrill at the thought that the baptism of the Holy Spirit means endowment with power. It is all of that. But most of us who have received that experience have been disappointed to find that the strength of the old Adamic nature remained strong within us, and that many times we were impotent in the face of the foe. It can only be because we have not walked in the pathway of the Cross, and have therefore not experienced the cutting off of the old nature within. We have desired the power of this baptism, without the weakening of the flesh; and I think God has been merciful to us, and has not permitted us to know too much of the power until we have known the circumcision of Gilgal. Too many of Gods ministers have grasped for the power of God, without knowing the weakening of their self-nature, and it has been to their own sorrow. God give us of your power--but first of all to minister unto us " life and godliness" (2Pet. 1:3); and weaken our strength, that we might know only the strength and the power of the Lord.
If we have received a baptism of the Spirit, but have not received a baptism of the weakness of our flesh, we will know very little of the baptism of power. In the fullness of this baptism God would weaken us, that we might know His strength. If the Spirit of God has His Lordship in our lives, He will lead us into the way of the Cross; and if we refuse that way, we will never learn to walk in the Spirit. It is not really an experience in which we become stronger and wiser and mightier in our flesh, but an experience in which we become weaker and more foolish and less competent...in order that God might become our strength and our wisdom and our might.
When Paul said, "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities" (Rom. 8:26), I understand it means literally: "The Spirit joins His help to our weakness." He does not join Himself to the strong, high-places of our nature... He joins His help to our weakness. It is this that makes us strong--"Strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might."
Why must we continually emphasize these things? Because we are hard of hearing; and because God has determined to bring to NOUGHT this whole world system in the Day of the LORD. And in order to do so He must find a people who have come to NOUGHT because of the working of the Cross in their lives. God is not out to bring us down a notch or two, but to bring us down to ZERO. Because it is only in ZERO strength that we will be able to bring the forces of evil to ZERO:
"But God hath chosen the FOOLISH things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the WEAK things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and BASE things of the world, and things which are DESPISED, hath God chosen, yea, and things which ARE NOT (Zero things), to bring to NOUGHT (to Zero) things that are" (1Cor. 1:28). And what wisdom or what purpose can come out of that?
"THAT NO FLESH SHOULD GLORY IN HIS PRESENCE" (vs. 29). Thats what the Day of the LORD is all about, and that day is upon us! The day in which God said He would "stain the pride of all glory"!
So what does God do with this uncircumcised nation whom He is preparing for battle? Circumcise them on the eastern bank of the Jordan, so they will have time to recover in readiness for the great battle? On the eastern bank where they would have the added protection of high waters... for we are told that the Jordan was flooding her banks at that time of the year? No! He takes them across the river first, and totally cripples the whole army of warriors right under the noses of the mighty men of Jericho. He would weaken them completely right in the presence of their enemies. No doubt the hearts of the people of God melted as they saw perhaps 600,000 of their stalwart young men incapacitated for battle in one sudden stroke, at the command of God. But do you know? At this very moment the hearts of the inhabitants of Jericho also "melted" and "there was no spirit in them" when they saw this crippled army outside their fortified walls! What happened? It was the terror of God upon them. Did you hear what Paul said? He uses the FOOLISH things to display His glory and to confound the wise. It was simply their walk of obedience, their identification with the way of the Cross, that brought the fear of God upon the inhabitants of the land and terrified the mighty warriors of Canaan.
Now let us consider Gods battle strategy relative to some of the judges of Israel. Time and time again did Israel turn away from the LORD after the death of Joshua; and as they sought the LORD He was always faithful to raise up a deliverer, who became known as one of the judges. In every case we see the same principle involved, and the same pattern of warfare and victory.
(3) Consider Ehud
Ehud was a left-handed Benjamite whom God raised up to save Israel out of the hands of Eglon the king of Moab (Judg. 3:15). Literally it reads, "He was bound as to the right hand." His right hand was a problem with him. Being left-handed, so I am told, can be rather frustrating at times. The left-handed man doesnt quite fit in our society. He has to learn to do things the hard way. Society is geared for the right-handed person.
Benjamin, however, as named by his father Jacob means "Son of my right hand." I used to wonder about this when I discovered how God would use the left-handed Benjamites. But I discovered the secret one day when I realized that when I place my weak left hand in Gods strong right hand, suddenly I am linked up with the strength and might and power of God Himself. Now if I try to put my right hand in Gods right hand, I am in trouble. I will have to turn in the opposite direction to do that, and of course that means self-will, disobedience, going my own way. Can we not be content to take our insufficiencies, our lack, our weaknesses (our LEFT HAND), and walk side by side with Him in the same direction, and in the POWER OF HIS RIGHT HAND?
Of course this may well mean that at times we will be walking with a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And often the Church will think of us as a sad lot. But then I recall how Rachel looked upon her son also, so I do not want to condemn people for the impressions they might get. Rachel would have called this child, "The son of my sorrow." But Jacob said, "No, not Benoni, but BENJAMIN... He is going to be the SON OF MY RIGHT HAND!" There is no real joy that is not born of sorrow. There is no real joy that is not birthed at the Cross.
"Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy cometh in the morning" (Ps. 30:5).
But Ehud had a dagger with two edges. Sharpen your sword, you left-handed Benjamites! Get ready for the battle of the LORD! Thats all we need: a living Word that is "sharper than any two-edged sword." You may not be able to use the right hand of proficiency, of eloquence, of intellectual excellence. But you will discover, if you continue to let Him hold you in His strong right hand, what Isaiah discovered in His weakness:
"And He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me; and made me a polished shaft, in His quiver hath He hid me" (Isa. 49:2).
Let Him keep you there! Young people, zealous to work for God, let Him keep you there! You do not need to fret about preaching, or teaching, or evangelizing, or trying to do something ecclesiastical or ministerial in nature. Just keep your left hand in His right hand; and as you stand face to face with the enemies of God, you will find you can reach forth your hand and draw forth that sharp sword hidden away like Ehuds dagger... under a garment of weakness, and humility, and meekness. And because of these very virtues you have been able to pass through the guards undetected. Who is he? Hes got nothing! He cant do any harm!
But Ehud had a secret message for the king, the fat Eglon who sat there in his parlor in peace and contentment. His goods were in peace, because the people of God were under his dominion. The secret message that Ehud bore to the king was this: "God has brought an end to your oppression, you fat old monster. God has brought deliverance to His people." And one fell swoop of the dagger by the left-handed weakling brought deliverance to the whole nation!
(4) Consider Shamgar
Gods warriors-in-training are not out there in seminaries and places of learning trying to sharpen their weapons at the grindstones of the Philistines. They are ordinary people, trying to make a living for themselves and their families in some routine, ordinary occupation. They are to be found in all walks of life: fishermen, and farmers, and plumbers, and carpenters, and loggers, and factory hands. White collar workers, and blue collar workers. Perhaps a few professionals and intellectuals, but not too many of these, as the apostle Paul tells us.
Shamgar apparently was just a farmer. What did he know about the art of war? The army of the LORD that He is mustering in this hour will not be loaded with professional ministers. I know there are many precious ones out there whom God is going to use. But they will have to take their place with the rest of us, and learn the ways of God, in order to qualify for this army.
Shamgar had an ox-goad. He was no shirker. He wanted to put in a good days work on the job, and he used an ox-goad to make sure his oxen kept pace with him. Gods warriors-in-training are not lazy men--out there looking for a soft job. They are diligent, honest, reliable, trustworthy, hard-working. At the right moment Shamgar grabbed his ox-goad and slew six hundred Philistines with a startling blow, and delivered the people of God.
God has His Shamgars out there on the job. Many of them are wondering what they were born for, and why they are still alive. One day God will conscript them for active duty in the army of the LORD. Right now they need no other weapons than the ones they are using: faithful on the job, honest, diligent, hard-working, reliable... and following the Lord in all His ways. With these weapons they will be able to face any enemy that comes against the people of God.
(5) Consider Deborah and Barak
Deborah was a prophetess. God had given her a sure word, for this is the ultimate test of true prophecy. The people of God came to her for the word of the LORD in their hour of distress and need. The gift she had from God did not cause her to be exalted. What tremendous grace God must work in the lives of His chosen ones in order that they might speak that pure word, with power and authority, and with prophetic insight... and still that vessel remain humble and meek in His presence and before men. Many of our women feel they have to vindicate their ministry because it seems they live in a mans world. They want to prove that they have a gift and a calling from God. Deborah didnt even have to travel around in ministry--she "dwelt under a palm tree," symbol of peace and rest and victory in God. But the people recognized the word of the Lord that was in her mouth, and they came to her home to hear what God had to say to them. She was just a house-wife, like any other woman in Israel.
When God told Deborah to call Barak out of Kedesh-Naphtali, and command him to raise an army of 10,000 men from Naphtali and Zebulun to deliver Gods people out of the hands of Sisera, her only desire seemed to be just to stay right there at home. She simply considered herself to be a "mother in Israel." Mothers are always content just to stay at home, and look after the family. It was Baraks insistence that she go with him that caused her to change her mind. And rather than glorying in the fact that she was needed out there at the front of the battle, she chided Barak a little for the fear that he seemed to have. In her reply to Barak there was a prophecy that would seem to imply something like this, If the man is unfaithful, God just might use a woman to do a mans job. This is what she said:
"I will surely go with thee; notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" (Judg. 4:9).
Mothers in Israel! You have a very high calling. Do not glory in the fact you have gifts, or can prophesy sure words from the Lord, or perform miracles. But glory in the fact that God has made you a "weaker vessel" that you might know. like Deborah of old, the strength and the wisdom of the mighty God of Israel. Rejoice in the ministry that God has given you in your own home and family, and under your own palm tree. And as you instruct your little ones in the ways of the Lord, may they rise up to call you BLESSED!
The First Star Wars
Do you want to get involved in Gods Star Wars? In the war that is now getting underway in Heaven? "No," you say, "Im too busy fighting the Devil down here." Sounds good. But if you will follow through with what we have to say, you may come to understand why you are getting nowhere here in your battle against the Devil down here. It is because you are not known UP THERE in the heavenly ranks of Zion.
In the first Star Wars, nothing was left to human organization and strategy. O how long will the people of God go about wasting their time sniping at the Enemy from tree-tops and church-steeples? God has a master plan, and He wants you and me to come into His secret counsels, that we might come to know His way, and the secret of victory.
God considered the hearts of His people and found 10,000 men whom He knew would offer themselves "willingly" when called to battle. They were from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. Naphtali means "wrestling" and Zebulun means "dwelling." Gods warriors must learn how to "wrestle against principalities and powers," and they have to know that they can only do this under the power and canopy of the Spirit of God. They are going to have to discover that it is the way of the Cross, of reproach, of suffering, of misunderstanding, of weakness, of foolishness. Zebulun means "dwelling." It is not enough to be zealous for battle, and wrestlers. They have got to know Gods REST. They must learn to "abide" in the True Vine. They must make the Lord Himself to be their habitation. And therefore they can have no high towers, or fortresses, or kingdoms of their own.
When Barak called them to the battle of the Lord they "willingly offered themselves" (Judg. 5:2). Not just their money. Not just their tithes, or their double-tithes. Not just their services. But EVERYTHING! "They jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field" (Judg. 5:18), as they fought "by the waters of Megiddo" (vs. 19). Dr. Young the Hebrew scholar says that Megiddo means "Place of God." It was Gods war; and Megiddo was the place of Gods appointment. God had prepared an army that was known and recognized in heavenly places. He had prepared their hearts, and He it was who had KNOWN them and called them to the battle. Therefore the heavens themselves were aflame with the mighty warriors of the heavenly realms who rose up on behalf of the people of God:
"They fought from Heaven;
The stars in their courses
Fought against Sisera" (Judg. 5:20).
The Last Armageddon
Baraks battle was the first Battle of Armageddon. The last one is just on ahead. Baraks battle was the first of the Star Wars. The last Star Wars are about to take place. Once again God is mustering a people for battle. They are "wrestlers" (Naphtali means "wrestling"). "But we wrestle not against flesh and blood." We are learning to abide in Christ (Zebulun means "dwelling"). And because we know the rest and confidence of the Lord, as we abide in Him we will know how to wrestle against the powers of the heavenly realm.
Again they are a people who are offering themselves willingly: not just their talents, a little of their silver and gold, a portion of their resources--but THEMSELVES.
"And they overcame him (the Dragon) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. And they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:11).
Where will this last and final battle of the Lord take place? In the earth, and in the heavens...but it will start in Heaven.
"And she (the woman clothed with the sun) brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up to God, and to His throne... AND THERE WAS WAR IN HEAVEN" (Rev. 12:5,7).
Notice this, beloved! When this corporate SON comes forth, it is a declaration of WAR IN HEAVEN! But it also embraces the whole earth. For when Michael the archangel (who is in charge of the angelic forces) wars against the Dragon, the Dragon (Satan) is cast out of his heavenly stronghold... that place of dominion in the heavens from which he would harass, and captivate, and torment the people of God and the inhabitants of the earth. And now that he relinquishes those high places of dominance to the victorious sons of God, he comes down to earth, "having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 12:12). The inhabitants of the world will not understand. There is disaster and calamity everywhere. The woman "in the wilderness" will not understand... because there is tribulation, and anguish, and persecution. But there is a celestial shout of triumph: "Rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell therein!" The people of God are walking in heavenly places, and warring in heavenly places, even while their feet are on the earth where the Dragon is. Now they are able to crush him under their feet, as Paul said they would. (See Rom. 16:20). But what about the earth, now that Satan has been defeated in battle, and cast down from his lofty heights?
"Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea! For the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 12:12). And it is all because the victory has been fought and won! It is the Day of the LORD! It is the great Day of God Almighty!
Baraks armies fought in the "high places of the field," and "by the waters of Megiddo" (Judg. 5:19). Megiddo has therefore taken on a symbolic name for the last great battle of God that will be fought in Heaven, with spiritual weapons, but will cause wars and dreadful repercussions all over the world. I am told Har-Megiddo (Or, Armageddon) means Place of God. It is the place of Gods appointment for all the forces of evil that have arrayed themselves against the people of God, and which God will destroy in the Day of the LORD. God tells us that these unclean spirits that come forth from the mouth of the Dragon, "are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great Day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:14). Then there is this very solemn warning to Gods people, who are in the earth, and who must be alerted and prepared for this hour. Far from giving Gods people the consolation of being snatched away from these dreadful times, the Lord sounds a clear call to holiness and watchfulness:
"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (vs. 15). God saw fit to insert this special warning to His people in the time when the forces of Armageddon are being assembled, WARNING AND ENCOURAGING US TO BE ALERT, PREPARED, AND WALKING IN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF JESUS CHRIST. Then after this parenthesis, John continues writing,--
"And He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue ARMAGEDDON" (vs. 16).
Let us not be confused with the fact that different facets of truth are presented in the Book of Revelation over and over again, in different settings, and by different symbols. The Book will have more meaning to us when we understand that John saw things as related by the Angel, not always from a chronological standpoint, but from a panoramic standpoint: not as one standing before a high board fence, and peeking through a knot-hole watching a race as the horses ran by; but watching from a watchtower above the fence, and seeing clearly that portion of events that God was showing him from His own perspective, in some particular phase of Gods mighty workings in the earth and in the Church. Nevertheless all events were progressively moving forward to the glorious climax of a New Heavens and a New Earth. Let us see ourselves with John, not walking in a straight line chronologically toward the ultimate goal; but observing the unfolding of truth much like you would see the circles progressively stirring the waters in one circle after another, after casting a stone into the pool. A circle, then another circle, and another... until it progressively reaches its glorious climax. And that is why all through the book we will behold trouble, tribulation, victory, and the kingdom... repeated over and over again. And that is why the Book has had real meaning for Gods people in every era of the Church, according to their particular circle in the time-frame of Gods purposes.
And now we come to the day of harvest, and this wonderful book will have special meaning for those who walk in His ways in this hour. But we must not look at the harvest scene and think that everything before that is a thing of the past. Or see ourselves at the time of the "seven thunders" and feel that everything before that is mere history for us, and everything mentioned later is still future. John was told to "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" (Rev. 1:19). But we must understand that the things John saw in his day, are also things which we are witnessing here and now. The things pertaining to the seven churches are certainly historical, but they are also very present here and now; and they will continue to be meaningful to the Church even to the time of the end. And the "things which shall be hereafter" may very well be, from our viewpoint, things that have already happened on a certain level of Gods workings... even though they are yet to be revealed in another phase of His workings. As God progressively moves in the earth throughout this era of the Church, it is not just a past-present-future situation from Gods standpoint. Many of the things which John saw, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter... have been enacted and re-enacted many times in the earth, as one circle after another has issued forth in the outworking of Gods purposes, from the beginning until now. In and throughout every era of the Church there has been the conflict of Good and Evil, of Light and Darkness... until in the consummation of it all we see the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with the overcomers who have followed Him, and all enemies are subdued under His feet.
The Book of Revelation begins with the statement that God made it known by signs. The angel "sign-ified" unto His servant John... made it known to him in "sign" language. If we are not real familiar with the Old Testament, we can read the Book of Revelation and fail to realize that the "sign-language" that is used is largely from the types and shadows of the Old Testament--not only from the books that relate to the sacrifices and ceremonies of Israel, but to the words of the prophets as well. There are approximately 400 direct quotations or other references to the Old Testament in the Book of Revelation, as the Holy Spirit saw fit to clothe the "Revelation" in terminology that would be something very "hidden" from those who continued to walk in disobedience and rebellion against God. The "mysteries" of God are secrets, revealed to Gods chosen ones, but "secrets" that the world about us cannot know or perceive, except as the heart is laid bare before Him. For He tells us clearly that "the secret of the Lord is to them that fear Him" (Ps. 25:14).
Armageddon, then, derives its significance from the Old Testament Megiddo, where on two particular occasions God assembled the hordes of evil together to bring about their destruction by His own mighty intervention. Both the wars of Barak and of Gideon were fought in the area of Megiddo; and so God in the Book of Revelation tells us that it will be at Armageddon where God will draw the evil forces of this world system together, and bring about their destruction. (See Rev. 16:14-16). It is that great Day of God Almighty, where God sits in judgment upon the whole world. Joel therefore calls it a battle in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. This is not the same valley as Megiddo, but the meaning is clear. Jehoshaphat means "God is Judge." It is that day when God sits in judgment upon the whole world. Joel is the Old Testament alarmist. When Gods servants start talking the way Joel talked, they are despised as "alarmists." So were Gods prophets of old. May God raise up a few more Heaven-sent, anointed "watchmen" to sound the alarm--in this day when the Church is being taught to settle down, be at peace... Because God will not let us see those dreadful days of tribulation and darkness that the alarmists are talking about. And so Joel was the alarmist of his day, who cried out:
"PREPARE WAR, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about...." (Joel 3:9-11).
God declares war against all nations for their rebellion against Him. "Get together," He says, "I am ready for battle... Prepare for War! I have an appointment for all men at Armageddon, the Place of God... in the Valley of Judgment. Have your international conferences, and your summit meetings! Have your World Church councils and your Ecumenical gatherings! And UNITE!" God says He is releasing the unclean spirits of devils to hasten on the task that men in high places have in mind, of uniting the peoples of the earth together in alliances of PEACE, and all the while rejecting the Prince of Peace. Let the World Church come together and exalt the leadership of Man. God is preparing a Body in the earth that is exalting the Lordship of Christ. Let the super-powers strive for peace based on human power and strength... based on the false premise that a major holocaust will be averted as long as each block of nations understands that a first-strike would mean mutual destruction! In the midst of it all God is preparing a people, and arming them with weapons of truth, and poverty of spirit, and meekness, and righteousness, and love--and they shall overcome all the hordes of Evil, "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony"!
(6) Consider Gideon
"Israel was greatly impoverished" because of the Midianites, and cried unto God for a deliverer. In answer to their cry God raised up a man by the name of Gideon. Gideon was threshing grain by (or in) the winepress in order to hide it from the Midianites, when the angel of the LORD greeted him with strange words:
"The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor" (Judg. 6:12). God knew Gideons problem. He knew that Gideon was filled with fear because of the enemy. He knew he was but a weak man in one of the poorest families of Manasseh. He knew that Gideon was the least, and not the greatest, in his fathers house. Just the qualities that God was looking for! And so the angel said,
"Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel" (vs. 14). His strength was not to be in his own resources, but in his weakness. And the fact that God SENT him would be the only authority and power he needed.
We all know the story... how God had to whittle down the original army of 32,000 men to a handful of 300. Beloved, why can we not learn from the multitude of witnesses, in both the Old Testament and the New... that strength is not in numbers, that riches consist not of silver and gold, that wisdom proceeds from the way of the Cross, and not from the halls of learning?
Gideon demobilized his army at the command of the LORD, by ordering all the fearful ones to go home. He was left with only 10,000 men. These were all anxious for battle; but God said, "The people are yet too many". God took the matter in His own hands and sent another 9,700 home... discharged them from the army of the Lord! And for what reason? Perhaps many of them wondered why, when they were so anxious to fight for the LORD. Whatever the reason was for the discharge of these 9,700 soldiers, I think God would have us know that in the very ordinary things of life, in and about our daily tasks and occupations, we are being tested and tried of the Lord every day, and we are not always aware of it. They were just down at the water quenching their thirst; but God was watching from Heaven, and trying their hearts, and they did not know it! There is something else very significant. God said if He used the whole multitude, then Israel would take some of the glory. So we know that when God hand-picked these 300 men, He knew they would not take any glory for the victory He would give them. God knew He would get all the glory!
God who searcheth the hearts of men is marking His own for involvement in the battle of the Lord, according to His own requirements of faithfulness, obedience, and submission to His will. His standard of judgment is this: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in that which is much". Do not expect to be commissioned to a post of duty in the army of the Lord if there is indifference or slothfulness or unfaithfulness or dishonesty in your menial day by day tasks at home or at work... unfaithfulness to your employer, or to your employee, cheating, lying, robbing your fellow-citizens by falsifying tax returns. And we could go on and on in this. Paul observed that there was one requirement of a steward... he must be found faithful. And Jesus said if a man could not be trusted in his dealings with mammon, the fading wealth of this life, God could not trust him with the true riches.
God chose the 300, not to show how mighty they were; but to demonstrate that in the weakness of man He Himself would be glorified. With a lamp, and a pitcher, and a trumpet, they went forth to battle. That was all they needed, because the battle was the LORDs. And so Paul says,
"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (2Cor. 4:7).
A lamp within the pitcher. But the pitcher had to be broken that the light might shine forth. And then the trumpet sound of Gods Word went forth: "The Sword of the LORD and of Gideon..."
The enemy was routed in utter confusion, and actually destroyed themselves. Gods battle strategy against the enemy is to throw them into confusion. "Every mans sword was against his fellow, even throughout all the host" (Judg. 7:22). Satan has effectively used this strategy by bringing division and confusion into the midst of Gods people; but all this will be reversed in the Day of the LORD.
The hosts of Satan tremble, and are thrown into a confused state of self-destruction when they are confronted with a people walking in the obedience of Christ, in the way of the Cross!
(7) Consider Jehoshaphat
A great multitude of the children of Ammon, and of Moab, and of Mount Seir had assembled together to strike at Jerusalem. Immediately this humble king assembled the people and the priests together and earnestly sought the Lord for help and guidance. Jehoshaphat stood before all the people and cried out to the Lord for help, ending his fervent prayer with a very NEGATIVE (?) confession:
"For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: BUT OUR EYES ARE UPON THEE" (2Chron. 20:12). Once again, the people of God were totally helpless. They did not know what to do!
Dear ones, God wants us to know in the day of sudden calamity, in the day of sudden fear, when we know we have no might against the enemy, when we know not what to do, the secret of our victory is this: "Our eyes are upon Thee..." God does not hesitate to expose His chosen ones in their utter weakness before the hordes of the enemy, because He is their Deliverer. And He rises up on their behalf when they cry: "Lord, our eyes are upon Thee..."
Suddenly the spirit of prophecy came upon a certain Levite of the sons of Asaph, and he stood and revealed the exact location of the enemy. Then he gave the people of God explicit instructions as to what they were to do. It was not just a case of every man in Israel doing what he could. Confess it! Break all the rules of the success books, and confess it! "Lord, I dont know what to do!" Then if we can settle our hearts and wait upon Him, He will show us what to do. Here again the battle was to be the Lords.
"Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD" (2Chron. 20:17). And the whole congregation fell before the LORD, and worshipped.
How we long for those days when the Spirit of God will come upon His priesthood in the earth, and they shall stand and give forth a clear word from the Lord! Words from the Lord that will penetrate the hearts of His people, convicting the erring ones, breaking the stubborn will, revealing the strategy of the Enemy, and causing the unbelievers to fall down on their face and cry out to God for mercy! (See 1Cor. 14:24,25).
Beloved, we are going to see those days... when Gods people get involved with his ways, and begin walking in the pathway of obedience, and hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches. The Lord has been faithful to enrich His people with spiritual gifts and enablements. These enablements are like the faculties of the human body: eyes to see what God is revealing, ears to hear what God is saying, hands to do and perform what God is doing. Too often has there been a very mechanical operation of the gifts, because people are taught "how to do it". But as Gods people are nurtured with truth, the gift they have from God will issue forth in the beauty of His Life. We really do not have to teach our children how to see, and how to hear, and how to breathe--though they will require certain guidance as these faculties unfold in their lives. When you hear a prophesy it is generally not too difficult to discern whether God has spoken, or if the one speaking has been taught HOW to prophesy. Amos said he could not help but prophesy, because he heard from God--and as one is filled with fear when the lion roars, so he says, "I have to prophesy, because the Lord GOD hath spoken" (See Amos 3:8).
What happened in Jehoshaphats battle? The battle was the LORDs, so they sent singers before the army, singing "Praise the LORD; for His mercy endureth for ever!" And once again the enemies of God destroyed themselves. All Israel had to do was go out and gather the spoils! Then enemies of the Lord fight and destroy one another when Gods people walk in His ways!
You cannot imitate victory marches like that. Here was a people faced with utter destruction. They assembled together and sought God. They openly confessed they did not know what to do. But when they sought God with all their hearts, He gave them a clear word of direction, and they had nothing to do but to praise God for His intervention and gather the spoils of victory!
(8) Consider Hezekiah
Hezekiah was a good king; and upon coming to the throne of Judah his first concern was to restore the worship and the glory of Gods temple... and God gave them a great revival.
The first thing he did was to "open the doors of the house of the LORD and repair them" (2Chron. 29:3). Priests and Levites were assembled together at Jerusalem to begin the task of cleansing the temple of God. There was a battle coming, and God knew that. Why did He not get them involved in military training camps? Because Gods armor is the "armor of light", and therefore His first concern was for His temple. The temple had to be cleansed, or there would be defeat in battle. It is time Gods people understood this.
God wants truth in the inward parts. This is the day of the cleansing of Gods house. Not a mere outward, legalistic sort of thing... but a deep, penetrating work of the Spirit of God in hearts and lives. When God cleanses and changes the hearts of men, then the outside will be clean too.
The burnt offering had to be restored. The hearts of men had to be laid on the altar, and totally exposed to the fires of God.
"And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also..." (vs. 27). There are lots of nice songs in the Church today, and a lot of good professional music. But "the song of the LORD" is entirely different: songs of the Spirit are songs that penetrate the heart and produce a brokenness, and a sense of awesomeness because of the presence of God. You dont really hear the SONG OF THE LORD until there is a burnt offering, a complete yielding to God, a sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit.
Next comes Divine order. "So the service of the house of the LORD was set in order" (vs. 35). Generally this is first on our agenda: Get it well organized with a building, a well structured leadership, and have it all ready for God to move in. And so we have mans order, which soon ends in another Babel--disorder, division, and strife. Gods order is based upon a people drawn together by the Holy Spirit, coming to fullness of commitment and sacrifice, and offering themselves willingly unto the Lord.
Soon the revival spread to other parts of the land. Messengers went forth from Jerusalem to the various towns and villages, inviting the people to come to Jerusalem to keep the passover, and to turn again to the Lord. Some mocked and laughed the messengers to scorn. Others humbled themselves, and came and sought the Lord. Healings began to take place (though we are not told the names of any who ministered the healing!). The hearts of the people were open for the Word, and teachers were raised up to lead the people of God in His ways. The final outcome of it all was JOY. There was "great joy in Jerusalem". This was far different from the trumped up joy that men are trying to manufacture in our churches today. There is nothing like the joy of the Holy Spirit... the joy that proceeds from a people who are brought low at His feet because of the burnt offering, and who wait before Him in humility and contrition of heart, and begin to learn of Him and walk in His ways.
Next came the breaking down of the images and high places of idolatry that abounded in the land. I wonder just how many idols we are going to discover when God begins to judge His house, and search out His people with the seven flaming eyes of the Spirit of God! May God continue this great work that He has begun in the earth, that His Temple (the Church) might be restored, and the people of God cleansed and purified and enriched with all the glorious provisions of His grace! And let us not be deterred from this vision by ignorant teachers who scoff: "These people are sitting around trying to get perfect, instead of getting out there and working for God".
The Day of the LORD is at hand, and thats what this great preparation is all about. The Enemy has devised a wicked plot to destroy the people of God in one massive blow, and if Gods Temple is not cleansed and His people consecrated on the altar of burnt offering, we are not going to survive the burnings of that great day. And so we read,
"After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself" (2Chron. 32:1).
But Jerusalem was ready for them. They did not feel they were ready, and it brought great fear into the hearts of all. But in their commitment to the Lord they had penetrated the very heavens. How we seek to emphasize that it is only as the people of God become KNOWN IN THE HEAVENS AND RECOGNIZED BEFORE THE THRONE, that they are going to know victory over the onslaughts of the Evil One down here.
What did Hezekiah do in the hour of such great distress and peril? He sent a message to Isaiah the prophet in which he confessed (and once again it seemed like a very negative confession): "This is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth" (2kgs 19:3). It seemed to Hezekiah that all the good things God had done for them, and the revival they had known, were about to end in disaster. "No strength to bring forth!" Now Hezekiah means "Jah is Strength", but Hezekiah had none of his own, and there was none in Israel. But the secret of their victory would rest in this very fact... that they were helpless, and they knew it... and that God was their sufficiency. Hezekiah received a long, threatening letter from Sennacheribs general, which amounted to this simple ultimatum: "Surrender or else!" Hezekiah had no answer to send back. So he took the letter to the temple, and "spread it out before the Lord". He said, "Lord, you read this... I dont know what to do about it". Hezekiah had touched the throne. I know we are exhorted: "We must pray more... we must intercede more...!" Very true. But all this will amount to nothing if the hearts of the people have not turned back to God, if the Temple is not being cleansed, if the burnt offering of total commitment to God is not ascending before the Lord from broken and contrite hearts. The people of God had penetrated the Heavens, and were recognized by the armies of Heaven, and God would soon reveal what He was going to do. The battle was the LORDs!
Isaiah sent back to Hezekiah the assurance that God had heard their cries, and gave Rabshakeh the answer that Hezekiah was unable to give. It was a scathing denunciation of Sennacherib and all his armies, and he concluded the letter by saying,
"I (the LORD) will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant Davids sake. And it came to pass that night, that the Angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand" (2kgs 19:34,35). In school days we had a poem in our reader by the famous English poet Lord Byron, where he dramatically describes this great confrontation, and I would like to include it here:
THE DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal!
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
(9) Consider Mordecai
Here we have one of the clearest examples of how God enables His people to take away the panoply from the Enemy. We find it in the Book of Esther, where Gods Name is nowhere expressly mentioned, but everywhere revealed.
Haman the exalted Prince of Persia had an unsatiated hatred for Mordecai the Jew, who used to sit at the kings gate. Haman had already succeeded in getting the Kings signature on an edict to wipe the Jews from the face of the earth, and the day was set. But he just couldnt wait all those months to get rid of Mordecai, the one Jew that tormented him just by his very presence. Mordecai, however, had been a good man in his captivity, not the least rebellious because of his fate, and he had even saved the kings life on one occasion. For this he had received no recognition, not even from the king. But as Gods people began to get concerned about their fate, and set their faces to seek God with prayer and fasting, God began to move on their behalf. God has never had any problem dealing with kings and dictators. One angel from Heaven could liquidate any of them at a moments notice. Gods problem has always been with His people, because they are His children, and He desires to nurture them in His ways. From them He requires obedience, submission to His will, and that they learn His ways. And so the LORD troubled the king on his bed at night, and he could find no rest. Finally he called for the royal diary, and had one of his servants read it to him by the light of a lamp. He seemed to have the feeling that something might have happened in his kingdom that he had neglected to look into, and perhaps this was making him restless. Sure enough! "Would you repeat that last sentence please...!" There was the reason he could not sleep! The man Mordecai had saved his life, and he (the king) had forgotten all about it. Immediately he went to sleep.
But not for long. By now it was early morning. Haman in the meantime had been very busy erecting a gallows in his back-yard, upon which he was going to hang Mordecai, and all he needed now was the kings signature. Just a minor detail, of course, but it was necessary. But as he came into the kings court with that little piece of paper in his hand, the king got in the first word, because he knew he must not delay this matter any longer. He must do something noble to Mordecai the Jew.
"There is a certain man in my kingdom that I must honor," said the king to Haman. "What would you suggest?" Haman felt sure he was the man the king had in mend, because he had received so many royal honors of late, so it wasnt hard to think up a real good one.
"Why not clothe the man with your own royal garments," he said to the king, "and put your crown on his head, and set him on your royal horse; then have one of your favorite nobles lead the horse through the city, and proclaim before all the people standing by... Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor." (See Esth. 6:9). "A very good suggestion," said the king; "Now you are my favorite noblemen. Go and do to Mordecai the Jew everything that you have suggested. Be sure you dont leave out anything that you have mentioned... right down to the last little detail".
That little piece of paper that he had in his hand for the king to sign... well, he just crumpled it up and slipped it in his pocket. And Haman went out and did exactly what the king had ordered. Then he put the horse away, and went home and cried on his wifes shoulder. With that intuition that women often have, immediately she cautioned him that perhaps the tables were turning... perhaps his days were numbered! Haman was beginning to lose his armor. If the hearts of Gods people have been prepared, when they come into open confrontation with the enemy they are going to discover that he begins to weaken even before the battle begins. When His people begin to walk with Him, God simply takes the wise in their own craftiness, and the pit that they have dug for the child of God... they fall into it themselves.
Still, it was a very dark hour for the people of God. The unalterable edict of Haman hang heavily over the heads of every Jew in the 127 provinces of Persia. But God had chosen Esther to be another key in this whole situation, though she did not realize it when she was appointed to be the queen. She was Mordecais cousin and Mordecai had raised her like his own daughter. Esther had been chosen by the king from among many contestants, to replace the former queen who had been dismissed from royalty for insubordination. Mordecai reminded her that perhaps she had come into a place of royal favour just for this very critical occasion.
Mordecai, concerned about the fate of his people, sat mourning at the kings gate clothed in sackcloth. All Jewry was in a state of mourning, and prayer, and fasting. There seemed to be no way out. But God ordained it this way, so He could make a way where there was no way, and thereby bring greater glory to Himself. God ordains the dead-ends in our walk with God, and brings us to places of great crisis, that when we get there we might find God. God wants us to understand this, because we may be assured that the "god of this world" is determined to wipe Gods people off the face of the earth. And the time may well come, in the not-too-distant future, when this will appear to be a very imminent possibility. God wants us to know in that hour that He is still the God of Israel, the God of Esther, and the God of Mordecai.
Esther was persuaded by her cousin to take the bold, yet very timid step into the kings presence to intercede for her people. Neither the king nor Haman knew that she was a Jewess, for Mordecai had warned her to keep this a secret. Esther knew that if the king did not extend the royal sceptre to her when she walked into his presence, it meant sudden execution for her. This law applied to everyone who was not specifically called to come in, whether it was the queen, or the caretaker. But God had heard the cries of His people; and as she stepped into the presence of the king, immediately he held forth the golden sceptre of acceptance. She then requested the kings presence at a banquet that she would prepare. During this first banquet, she requested that both the king and Haman would accept an invitation to another banquet on the next day. Of course Haman was delighted to have been so highly honored by the queen, and told his wife when he got home how well everything was going.
But it was a different story when the banquet got underway. Esther openly condemned Haman as the wicked prince who had devised the whole plot to destroy her people. The king was furious. Haman was petrified. And as the king paced back and forth in a rage, wondering what to do with Haman... one of his servants reminded him that Hamans gallows were still standing in Hamans back-yard, still unused, still operational. The king commanded, "Hang Haman on his own gallows."
Little did Haman realize, when he built the gallows, that one day he himself would hang from the top of it. Little did Satan realize, when he finally got Jesus on the Cross, that he (Satan himself) would hang from that Cross in total destruction, along with all his principalities and powers; and that it was there that the Son of God had triumphed over him. (See Col. 2:14,15; Heb. 2: 14,15). God wants us to know that any device of Satan to harm that one who is walking in the obedience of the Cross, God will turn it into his own destruction.
If ever there was a book that might be called the Book of Irony, it is the Book of Esther. Haman was hanged on the gallows which he had erected for Mordecai, and Mordecai was given the princely office left vacant by Hamans destruction. Be assured of this, beloved, when "the accuser of the brethren" loses his foothold in heavenly places, there is an overcoming manchild, a royal priesthood, to take his place. And the authority that the Enemy uses to harass and torment the people of God becomes the authority of Gods chosen priesthood to bring healing and deliverance and peace to Gods people.
But how would Mordecai go about the royal task of saving the people from the Edict of Haman? He could not cancel the law outright, because the laws of the Medes and Persians were unalterable; and everybody knew that not even the king dared to tamper with that cornerstone of the judicial system.
But another decree was issued, which gave authority to every Jew in the 127 provinces of Persia (an empire that reached all the way down to India) to stand for his life, and to destroy his would-be destroyer, on the very same day that Haman had decreed to bring about their total annihilation. Then when that fearful day approached, God Himself came on the scene and began to put confusion into the ranks of the enemy. If Gods people understood the Day of the LORD, they would cease dreading that day and would stop looking for a way out of it. It is the day when all the forces of Evil are assembled at Gods appointment to battle with the forces of God and Righteousness. And Gods people are arrayed with the Armor of Light to bring them to nought.
God put such a fear and trembling into the hearts of their enemies that many of these Gentiles became Jews, and allied themselves with the people of God. Every time Gods enemies bring forth some evil decree or device against the people of God, God simply turns it to their own destruction, as His people learn to walk in the pathway of obedience and in the wisdom of the Cross. Suddenly the Day of Doom was transformed into what the Bible describes as a Day of Joy! "The Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day" (Esth. 8:17).
DISCERNING GOOD AND EVIL
"But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14).
"For we are not ignorant of his (Satans) devices" (2Cor. 2:11).
God is not the Author of evil, of confusion, of darkness. When God bids His people to come to that place of maturity where they are able to discern both good and evil, He is not asking them to understand that He is, in some sense, the Author of both. Rather He would bring His mature ones to that place in God where they know, discern, understand the nature of both, so they will know where to draw the line between good and evil, between light and darkness, between order and disorder, between truth and falsehood. And then in union with Him they shall be able to confront the forces of evil in open battle, and bring them to nought. As we walk in His ways and learn of Him He will show us how to walk in the wisdom of the Cross, and how to face every onslaught of the Evil One against us, clothed upon with "the armor of righteousness". He shows us how God, in the wisdom of the Cross, reaches forth and takes the devices of the Enemy which he had devised for our destruction, entwines them into His own glorious purposes, and uses them to ensnare the Enemy in his own trap. It is the teaching of the Cross,--
"That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil" (Heb. 2:14).
We have observed in all these illustrations we have used from the Old Testament, how time and time again, as His people were brought face to face with certain and imminent destruction, and they sought Him... God came on the scene and brought the hordes of evil to destruction by their own evil strategies.
The Origin of Evil
Now if we understand that God is PURE LIGHT, and that "in Him is no darkness at all" (1Jn. 1:5), there is no way we can go along with some current teaching that God made the Devil just as He is now: a liar, a murderer, full of hate, full of sin, full of darkness. I believe Satans strategy in this is to promote a little sympathy for himself, knowing that in a short time he is to be crushed under the feet of the people of God. Cant you hear him pleading for a little understanding and sympathy from Gods people? "Christian friends, dont be too hard on me. I can show you from the Bible that God made me just the way I am. The Bible says that I sinned from the beginning... God made me like this: to kill, to steal, to deceive, and to destroy. So if I cause my servants to slaughter the innocents on my altars... if I drag your young men and women down into destruction through drugs and liquor... if I pervert their minds with filth and wild intoxicating music, and degrade them utterly in spirit, soul, and body... with all manner of sexual and immoral perversity... I cant help it. You say it is not good. How would I know? I never knew the meaning of GOOD. How could I tell the difference? Cant you see? God made me this way... God made me do it!"
Some are teaching that Adam was the shining one ...the Lucifer that Isaiah spoke about. True, Adam was made in Gods image, but never was he in the full expression of "the image of God". This was reserved for the Last Adam, even Jesus. The first Adam was but a "figure" or "type" of the Last Adam (See Rom. 5:14). Adam was never a heavenly one; nor did he fall "from Heaven". He was "of the earth, earthy". It was the Last Adam who was "the Lord from heaven" (1Cor. 15:47). Jesus said He saw Satan fall from heaven "as lightning" (Luke 10:18). Lucifer is clearly identified in the Bible as the king of Babylon:
The King of Babylon
"Take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased!" And after describing his greatness and his pomp the prophet goes on to describe his sin, and his fall:
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer..." (See Isa. 14).
As we come to understand what Babylon is, then the identification of the king of Babylon is readily apparent. It is not too difficult for us to understand that the original Babel, and the later kingdoms of Babylon (under Nebuchadnezzar and other kings) were but the first expressions of a great antichrist system that would come to ultimate fullness in the earth, and over which Satan would rule as "the prince of the power of the air",. and as "the god of this world" (See Eph. 2:2, 2Cor. 4:4). For Babylon is seen again in the Book of Revelation, in its ultimate form, as the kingdom and domain of the "whore" that rides the scarlet-colored "beast". All the nations are seen as dominated by the Babylon system, as the ally themselves together to "make war with the Lamb" and His chosen ones. (Rev. 12:7-9, Rev. 17:1-18; etc).
It is not strange, therefore, that the prophets would speak of the earthly and the heavenly kingdoms in the same breath, in the same context. And here in Isa. 14:1-15, it is evident that there is the blending of the earthly with the heavenly. Daniel also speaks of the earthly and heavenly princes, and how Michael the archangel got involved in warfare with the Prince of Persia. It was at a time when the earthly Prince of Persia (king Cyrus) was favoring the people of God, and helping them rebuild and restore the temple in Jerusalem. God in His sovereignty holds absolute power and authority in His hands, and knows how to frustrate the purposes of the Evil One who may be working in both the earthly and the heavenly realms. The heavenly counterpart of the earthly ruler is against God and His purposes, and will do what he can to put pressure on the princes of this world to hinder the work of God. Michael therefore stood up on behalf of Gods people, and warred against the heavenly Prince of Persia (See Dan. 10:13). There are "principalities and powers" in the heavenlies that are counterparts of kings, dictators, presidents, prime ministers... whatever they may be designated down here; and these heavenly powers are not at all favorable to any kind of law or decree that will help the cause of Gods people in the earth. That is why we are exhorted to pray for these earthly rulers, that the purposes of God will not be frustrated by the Enemy; because Satan knows how to take advantage of the people of God in their ignorance, or disobedience. Getting involved in the political arena solves nothing. God has no problem dealing with earthly governors and rulers. He can turn their hearts any way He will--be they evil and perverse, or seemingly good and benevolent. Gods problem is with His own people. And let us be assured of this, people of God: if our nation, or any other nation comes to the place of hopeless apostasy... and if Gods people who are scattered among them, are not walking in the ways of truth... our prayers will not penetrate the heavens, and Gods earthly rulers will be pressured by the Enemy to go his way, whether that ruler be Christian or pagan. On the contrary, a people walking in the paths of truth can penetrate the very heavens and cause even the heart of an oppressive ruler to bow to His will. Be they presidents, or prime ministers, or iron-handed dictators, or kings... God knows how to deal with them when His people are walking in obedience and interceding for the Church of Christ according to the will of God. And when His people turn away from God, and go their own way, (it matters not how they vote), God will give them the kind of ruler that is compatible with the heart of the nation, and with the Church that has "lost its savor". We had better know and recognize that this is so, and stop blaming the evil rulers that abound in the earth today. God sets in power whom He will, according to His own righteous decrees--and He knows how to cancel out the vote of zealous Christians, if they are not seeking Him earnestly and their hearts are not prepared to walk in obedience before Him.
Is God the Author of Evil?
There is this passage in 1 John 3:8 that some are misconstruing to make God the Author of evil. "The Devil sinneth from the beginning..." Notice in the very same breath John says, "This is the message that ye heard from the beginning" (vs. 11). What beginning? The day they were born? No! It was another beginning, many years later when they had come to years, and the gospel came to them. If you will take your concordance and examine the various "beginnings" mentioned in the Bible, it becomes clear that there are many, many beginnings, and it all depends on the context in which they are mentioned. The disciples of Jesus, we are told, walked with Christ "from the beginning" (Jn. 15:27). You mean from the first day they were born? Or from the beginning of creation? No! But from the beginning when Jesus called them to become His disciples. Mark speaks about "the beginning of the gospel" (Mark 1:1)--referring to the time when John the Baptist came on the scene. Paul also speaks about "the beginning of the gospel", and he is referring to his own ministry, when he ministered the gospel in Macedonia and in other parts, which was perhaps 30 years or more later (See Phil. 4:15). It was not the same "beginning of the gospel" that Mark spoke about. We could go on and on in this. And because the Devil sinned "from the beginning" it is a great error to say that God created him that way. Rather from the time he chose the pathway of self-exaltation and disobedience to his Creator--that was the beginning of his role as Satan, or Adversary of God.
Does God Use the Devil?
Certainly God is Sovereign, and even Satan is under Gods control. Much to his displeasure he does not have liberty to perform his evil works except the Lord permits it, or authorizes it. Then why not just confess that when God created him, He gave him these evil attributes? Because this would be maligning God. The apostle Paul preached the glorious gospel of the grace of God, and boldly declared that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound". And so his accusers slanderously reported that Paul was preaching: "Let us do evil that good may come". What shall we say then of this slanderous teaching, "Let us make a Devil... full of hate and murder and deceit...that good may come"? It is totally contrary to the Spirit of Truth, because it makes a holy God to be the Author of Evil. Paul reminds us that even though God may use our "lie" to show forth His glory--this in no way implies that the "lie" is excusable because of the glory God will bring out of it. And if it was a slanderous report when men accused Paul of teaching, "Let us do evil that good may come.."--what shall we say of those who are teaching that God Himself created the greatest of all evils, when He made the Evil One--that "good might come" out of it? "Shall we (that are prone to sin), do evil that good may come?" Or shall God, who is awesome in holiness, create an Evil One "that good may come"? The apostle Paul refuses to even argue the point, because it is so obviously a charge against Gods holy character. He simply says its a "slanderous report" against God, and that God will righteously judge those who accuse him of teaching a doctrine like this. (See Rom. 3:5-8).
We know that God is in charge of all His creation, and that any power Satan has, God gave it to him. We would naturally suppose God should have stripped him of his power when he fell. But who are we to question Gods wisdom? God has never relinquished His absolute sovereignty in the heavens or in the earth; and we can be confident He never will. When questioned by Pilate (who reminded Jesus that he had power to release Him or to condemn Him) Jesus told him plainly that he had no power, except that which was given him from above (John 19:11). God is certainly in control, and He knows how and when He will turn all the devices of Satan against himself, to bring about his destruction. But let us not slander God by accusing him of creating this Evil One and endowing him with sin, murder, hate, and deceit in the day He created him.
God made Everything Good
Even in the natural world about us, what God made was so good that His own Godhead and attributes are to be seen in "the things that are made." Much of it has come under the curse, and signs of decay and corruption abound in all of His works. Yet in and through it all there is enough evidence of Himself in His handiwork to make all men "without excuse."
A quick scan through your concordance will show there is a clear distinction between the evil deeds of men or devils, and the evil that God Himself creates for the punishment of evil doers. God "creates evil" to judge the wicked for their wickedness-by sending wars, famines, pestilence and the like. He may even send evil (or the Evil One) against His own chosen vessels, as He did to Job, by way of refining them in the furnace of affliction. Satan knows he is under restraint. He complained that God had put a hedge about Job, and that if God would remove the hedge, Job would sin like any other man. So God took the blame for Jobs afflictions, and removed the hedge--without obscuring the fact that Satan was himself the author of his own evil deeds. (See Job 2:3).
It is not true that God created the world, or anything in it, out of "nothing". Everything God made, He created out of attributes or powers or qualities that are inherent in Himself... so that "things which are seen were not made of things which do appear"--but from invisible things (Heb. 11:3). And these "invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse". (Rom. 1:20).
God is Light
Hear this very clear statement of the apostle John: "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1Jn. 1:5). God is Light, total Light. If you and I carry a light with us, we cannot avoid casting a shadow, because our body is the dark area that casts the shadow. And so Jesus said that if our eye be single, our whole body will be full of LIGHT, and He emphasized it further by saying, "having NO PART DARK" (Lk. 11:36). If we walk in the total Light of Him who is Light, the only shadows or projections that we cast about us, will be rays of light. No wonder Peters shadow, as it were, healed the sick as he walked by them. It was not merely the shadow cast as he obscured the sun, but the SHADOW OF LIGHT that emanated from a man that was walking in the full light of Gods presence. He was living in the presence of God, and abiding "under the shadow of the Almighty". God has no dark areas in His Being, and therefore even His SHADOW is one of pure light, total light.
"Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of LIGHTS, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jas. 1:16,17). Yes, God may "turn" in different directions, in response to the righteous, or the unrighteous acts of His people. But never is there any shadow of darkness cast about Him by reason of His "turning"...because there are no dark areas in His Being. All that comes out from His own Being is Light, Goodness, Love, Truth, Mercy, Long-suffering, Patience, Kindness, Righteousness, Justice--and because of these and other virtues, He will at times show forth His wrath, and create evil in the land to judge the workers of iniquity. James tells us: "God cannot be tempted with evil" (Jas. 1:13). The thought is that EVIL is foreign to His nature. One translation reads: "God is unversed in evils". God does not have those kinds of skills, to create and bring forth creatures of sin and darkness God does not have in His holy, righteous and awesome character, the ability to create a murderer, a thief, a liar. The scriptures tell us that "God cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). Are you telling us then, O man, that God who cannot lie can nevertheless create a liar, and the father of all lies?
As far as I am aware this teaching was introduced into the Church in modern times. Yet even Calvin the reformer saw fit to mention how perverse such a thought would be. He knew God well enough to know that in Him there was no such perverted expertise and wisdom. He writes in his Institutes, Volume I, Ch. XVI,
"But since the devil was created by God, we must remark, that this wickedness which we attribute to his nature is not from creation, but from corruption. For whatever evil quality he has, he has acquired by his defection and fall. And of this the Scripture apprizes us; lest, believing him to have come from God, just as he now is, we should ascribe to God himself that which is in direct opposition to him. For this reason Christ declares, that Satan, when he speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own; and adds the reason--because he abode not in the truth. When he says that he abode not in the truth, he certainly implies that he had once been in it; and when he calls him the father of a lie, he precludes his imputing to God the depravity of his nature, which originated wholly from himself. Though these things are delivered in a brief and rather obscure manner, yet they are abundantly sufficient to vindicate the majesty of God from every calumny. And what does it concern us to know, respecting devils, either more particulars, or for any other purpose? Some persons are displeased that the Scripture does not give us, in various places, a distinct and detailed account of their fall, with its cause, manner, time, and nature. But, these things being nothing to us, it was better for them, if not to be passed over in total silence, yet certainly to be touched on but lightly; because it would ill comport with the dignity of the Holy Spirit to feed curiosity with vain and unprofitable histories; and we perceive it to have been the design of the Lord, to deliver nothing in his sacred oracles, which we might not learn to our edification. That we ourselves, therefore, may not dwell upon unprofitable subjects, let us be content with this concise information respecting the nature of devils; that at their creation they were originally angels of God, but by degenerating have ruined themselves, and become the instruments of perdition to others. This being useful to be known, it is clearly stated by Peter and Jude, God, say they, spared not the angels that sinned, and kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation. And Paul, mentioning the elect angels, without doubt tacitly implies that there are reprobate ones."
Whence then cometh EVIL?
When we see God as One who is Light, in every ray of His Glory--suddenly it becomes apparent where evil comes from. EVIL is simply DARKNESS in all its various forms and intensities. And darkness is simply the absence of light.
Then sun sets, and I am in darkness. Is the sun the cause of the darkness? Not at all, but the sun moved away, and I am in darkness. I have power lines coming into my home. When darkness falls, I am totally dependent upon the Electric Power Company for light in my home. But one day I decide in my heart, "I do not want to live in this kind of dependence... I will have my own light... I will cut those power lines". Suddenly my home is in darkness. Where did it come from? From the Power Company? No! Rather, I excluded and severed my connection with the Power Company, and the result is simply NEGATIVE. I excluded the light, and suddenly I am in darkness.
God is LIGHT, not just a light-bearer. He is total LIGHT, and "in Him is no darkness at all". He gives light, because He is the source of truth, of goodness, of grace, of mercy, of long-suffering.. .for the facets of LIGHT are many. But we as creatures of God, made to be light-bearers, can only retain that light as we walk in union with Him. We in earth, and all celestial beings, are totally dependent upon Him for the life we have, and for His sustaining grace to maintain that life. If we choose to cut the channel of LIGHT, then immediately there is DARKNESS. Now we mentioned that there are many facets of light, and so...
Exclude Light, and you have Darkness.
Exclude Good, and you have Evil.
Exclude Mercy, and you have Cruelty.
Exclude Truth, and you have Deception.
Exclude Love, and you have Hatred.
IT IS JUST AS SIMPLE AS THAT, AND JUST AS AWESOME.
And need we point out again, that to expel the Darkness, we need only to come to the Light. To overcome the Evil, we can only do it with Goodness. To defeat the Cruelty, we need to show Mercy. To banish the Deception, we need to walk in Truth. To overcome the Hatred, we need to walk in Love. And are these not the very pillars of the Sermon on the Mount? And the secret of being made heirs of the Kingdom of Christ?
And so John tells us, "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light...he that hateth his brother is in darkness" (1Jn. 2:10,11). If you exclude Him who is LIGHT, you do not have to go anywhere looking for darkness it is immediately THERE. God is Light, God is Love, God is Truth. Leave God out and you have Darkness, Hate, and Deception. Where does Evil come from? JUST EXCLUDE GOD AND YOU HAVE IT!
God is Sovereign over all the works of Evil
But when we understand how God entwines the devices of the Evil One into His own purposes, and for His own glory--then we can praise Him in the midst of any torment that Satan seeks to bring upon us. God says, "I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy" (Isa. 54:16). And so God wants us to know that inasmuch as He created that evil man or devil, He knows how to deal with him. For a season God may let him rage against us, but He gives this assurance: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper" (vs. 17). As Pharaoh persists in his darkness and rebellion, God sends still further darkness; for He tells us, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things" (Isa. 45:7). In Adams disobedience and fall, we are all from the same lump of fallen humanity, "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). From this "same lump" God sees fit to choose a perverse Pharaoh, as a "vessel unto dishonor"; or by sovereign grace to make others to be "vessels unto honor". We all deserve His wrath--let us make no mistake about that. We are, of course, an inquisitive lot, but He doesnt feel obliged to tell us why He will tolerate and use "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction", and shower abundant grace on others, that do not deserve His grace. Where we cannot understand, let us be content to know that He is indeed the Potter, and we are but the clay. And therefore we have no right to say, "Why hast thou made me thus?" (See Rom. 9:18-23). (But He does give us a little insight as to His purpose in all of this, which we will enlarge upon in the last chapter).
The Nature of Adams Transgression
Adam was never a heavenly being, and when he transgressed he did not fall from Heaven, as Lucifer did. Paul tells us he was "of the earth, earthy" (1Cor. 15:47). Nor did he aspire to be "like God" as Lucifer did; for he was already made like God, in His image. Never as an equal, in the sense of being another god. But as one "like God" in the nature and character of his being, because he was created in Gods image. Like all of Gods creatures, including the heavenly hosts, he would always be totally dependent upon God, and upon every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God, if he was to retain this life and this glory. He was aware of that, and was not deceived into thinking that if he partook of the forbidden fruit he would "ascend" into a place of lordship in Heaven. He knew he was made to be lord of planet earth, and there was never a hint about any conspiracy with Eve or with the Serpent to be like God. He was created like God in the first place. Not to say he was "perfect" in the sense that he had come to the full stature of Gods intention; for he had not yet been approved in a trial of obedience. And yet, though "made of the dust", he was given a very high position as lord of this planet, with all creatures subject to him. Still, he was on probation, and his trial consisted of a simple matter of obedience to the God who created him. He was forbidden to eat of "the tree of knowledge of good and evil". But notice this, "ADAM WAS NOT DECEIVED" either by the Serpent or by Eve (1Tim. 2:14). EVE WAS DECEIVED; but in Adams case it was a deliberate transgression. He failed in the test of obedience. The Serpent came to Eve in his subtlety, and "deceived" her with a promise of great knowledge--something that would elevate her to a position of a god, if she would eat of the tree; and Eve fell as a result. But Adam knew better; his was a deliberate act of disobedience. Eve was the only companion he had in that beautiful Garden! Now she had fallen! He made a deliberate decision to disobey God, and to share the fate of his wife who had fallen.
Now we are told that Adam was "a figure of him that was to come", even Christ (Rom. 5:14). The One to come was to be another Adam, and He too would be subjected to a test of obedience. So in a very unique way the first Adam is a figure or pattern, of the Last Adam. The "pattern" of the first Adam is portrayed again in the Last Adam, but in a very remarkable contrast. The first Adam was tested and tried in a simple matter of obedience, and deliberately chose the pathway of disobedience. The Last Adam was tested and tried in much suffering and rejection and humiliation,--and ever and always remained faithful to the Heavenly Father. In His ultimate test of obedience He was required to go to the Cross. He likewise had to make a deliberate choice. But "for the joy that was set before Him"...the joy of bringing many sons to glory, He chose the pathway of obedience. He chose to partake of the curse of His fallen Bride, not as the first Adam--in disobedience... but in obedience to the Father as our Kinsman Redeemer, to bring us back to God. Where Adam failed to come to perfection, the last Adam triumphed, and was made "perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10). For let us understand that perfection in the general use of that word in scripture, is not only a state of goodness and moral uprightness-it goes far beyond that. Ultimately it is that blessed state where one has been tested and tried, and has come forth an approved vessel, complete and entire lacking nothing. And so the first Adam was a "figure" or "pattern" of the Last Adam--but it was a pattern that showed very distinct contrasts: the first Adam bringing death and condemnation to all in his race; and the Last Adam bringing righteousness and life and peace to all in His race. O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!
It is this glorious plan of redemption that occupies the heart and mind of God all through the scriptures. He drove man out of the Garden, but He will bring him back again. One Man has already come forth in Gods perfect image. There will yet be a new race of men, after the image of the Last Adam, of a far higher order than the image of the first Adam. And they will eat of the Tree of Life "which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (See Rev. 2:7).
Satan will continue to war against the holy Seed that God promised Eve, ...a Seed that would "bruise the Serpents head". The true Seed did this at the Cross, and He will yet crush him under His Feet. "O Lord, How long..." has been the cry of His suffering Church throughout the ages. Even so, Come Lord Jesus!
The Process of Apostasy
The Bible mentions 3 phases in the process of apostasy, and let us consider briefly each of these, for it shows us clearly what brought us to the state we are in today. It is explained by the apostle Paul in his writing to the Romans.
He begins by stating that in the early days of the human family, men knew God. True Adam had sinned, and fell away from his Creator. But a certain knowledge of God was still there, and persists to certain degree until this day. It is not true that in mans earliest history he worshipped many gods, and finally eliminated them all but one. Early man was monotheistic. He only recognized the true God who created him. How then did he apostatize? Paul sets it forth clearly:
(1) Step One:
"When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful" (Rom. 1:21). This may seem very insignificant to the world about us, and even to many Christians. But this was mans first step downward into the darkness of apostasy. Man said, "I will not give God His Lordship in my life. I refuse to give honor to the God who created me..." Paul couples this with UNTHANKFULNESS. Let us remember, we who profess to know God, that when we refuse to give God His Lordship, and to thank Him for His goodness, and for who He is, ...this is the first step away from the light, and into darkness. And so what happened when men took this step of independence from God, and no longer honored Him as God, nor gave Him thanks? They went into further darkness. "Their foolish heart was darkened". Where did this darkness come from? They refused to give God His Lordship, and became unthankful. With what result? God who is pre Light begins to withdraw His restraining grace from their lives, and "gives them up" to uncleanness, to "dishonor their own bodies between themselves" (vs.24).
(2) Step Two:
Man now "changes the truth of God into a lie"...and worships and serves the creature, rather than the Creator (vs. 25). Unless man returns to his God this is inevitable. Truth is perverted and becomes a LIE. Forsake Him who is Truth, and you accept a LIE. And so man begins to worship the creature, "an image made like to corruptible man" as well as "birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things". He worships "corruptible man", a species considered to have been a mere animal, but now evolved to the top of the ladder. He feels he has developed and evolved to a place where he is sufficient in himself. Who needs God? Well, He may exist; but we dont really need Him anymore. And so once again God lets man go his own way into further darkness. He says, "If you can do without Me, I will create still greater darkness for you. I will give you over to greater evil, and leave you to the perversity of your own heart." "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections" (vs. 26). And then the apostle goes on to describe some of the vilest expressions of moral behavior ever known in mans history,...perverse things like homosexualism and lesbianism. (See Rom. 1:26,27).
(3) Step Three:
"They did not like to retain God in their knowledge" (vs. 28). Notice the steps: First, I will not give God His place of honor as my Creator. Secondly, I am sufficient in myself, I dont really need God, I will be my own god. And now thirdly, "I dont want God in my thoughts... I will seek to eradicate Him from my very mind". And God says, If you do not want Me in your thoughts, I will create still more evil for you... I will withdraw from you completely. I release you to walk in total darkness and depravity. And so "God gave them over to a reprobate mind" (vs. 28). The reprobate mind (Gr. adokimos) is the mind that cannot stand the test; it becomes worthless, rejected. The man who once had an awareness of God, no longer has that awareness, nor does he even want to have God in his thoughts. The reprobate mind is one that lacks moral discernment. IT DOES NOT KNOW OR RECOGNIZE ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL.
Do you see, then, where we have come to in our society, and what we are up against? So why march, and protest, and try to legislate proper morals, and argue with people as to the pros and cons of the evils that exist in the land? They do not have a mind that is capable of making a proper judgment in matters of righteousness and morals. It is the last stage of mans apostasy... and I think we are there. Nothing but the proclamation of the Gospel of God, and His holy fire and anointing in our midst, can reverse this trend of our apostasy. If ministers in the "Church" and intellectuals in our schools continue to teach atheism, and humanism, and evolution... that man is a mere animal (but perhaps the most highly developed in the animal kingdom), God says I will create still greater darkness for you. And it all began when men became unthankful and denied God His Lordship, and changed the truth of God into a lie. And finally in mans last downward step of apostasy he now wants to eradicate the very thought of God from his mind. Our legislators, and our educators, and our psychologists are cooperating in all of this, and yet are baffled and confused because they sense how hopeless it is getting to deal with delinquency and perverse behavior. And while they are searching for solutions they are spending millions to fortify the educational system that has caused all the problems by saying: "Just leave God out of the picture, and let knowledge and science be exalted". God is saying to this highly educated and scientific generation: If you are going to leave Me out, I am going to create such darkness, that you will not know which way to turn. If you are going to turn the truth into a lie, I am going to send strong delusion, so that you will believe the lie. God says if you want to eradicate Me from your thoughts, I will eradicate every trace of light that you have ever known, and create more darkness and evil than you will know how to handle.
And so we are very quickly coming to the full expression of Phase III of mans apostasy. Men are being given over to a reprobate mind: the mind that cannot tell the difference between Good and Evil. Light becomes Darkness, and Darkness Light. Good becomes Evil, and Evil Good. Truth becomes Error, and Error Truth. They just do not know the difference.
When "Church" councils convene, as they are doing, for the purpose of coming to a consensus as to whether or not they should ordain homosexuals to the "ministry" or condone the practice of it in the Church, you know that we are right in the middle of ultimate apostasy, no matter what their final decision may be. When people begin to surmise, "Well, perhaps these are not sins after all lets be open lets get together and talk about it..."--you know their minds are already in the process of becoming "reprobate".
The Temptation of Jesus
"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (Matt. 4:1).
We want to consider briefly this threefold temptation of Jesus:
The temptation to turn the stone into bread.
The temptation to fall headlong from the temple.
The temptation to take the kingdoms of this world.
Paul tells us that Satan will come masquerading as an Angel of Light. How could he successfully counterfeit the light, unless he once knew what the light was? How could he produce seemingly good things, if he had not once known what was good? He must certainly have known that here was Once who came to regain what the first Adam had lost through listening to the voice of the Tempter. He got a foothold in the first Adam, through his subtle approach to Eve. Now he would attempt to get a similar foothold in the Last Adam.
Why is it Wrong?
Why would it have been wrong for Jesus to turn a stone into bread, if He was hungry. Or to fall headlong from a high building, into the upholding arms of the angels? Or to take the kingdoms of this world into His dominion?
We are not going into great detail concerning these temptations; but we want to emphasize that Satan was looking for a foothold in the life of the Son of God, and any manner in which he could do it would be acceptable to him. He simply wants a place of recognition and honor. He wants worship. He wants to be "like the Most High". He would gladly give to the Lord Jesus, or to any of His followers, anything over which he has control, if we are prepared to give him a little honor, a little recognition, a little worship.
God help His people to understand that when we submit ourselves to the Lord and take His Name in Christian baptism, we are there and then "joined unto the Lord"--and from this day forward He wants to be the Lord of our lives, to lead us and guide us, and direct us in the ways of God. He wants us to know that He is requiring of us, as He required of His Son, such subjection unto His will, and such a sensitivity to His voice, that we will do only what He is doing, say only what He is saying, and get involved only in what He Himself had ordained as His particular and specific purpose for our lives. And in order that we might come to this kind of relationship, He lays the pathway out before us in clear, unmistakable terms:
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24). Satan is not too deeply concerned how involved we may become in religion, in Christian activity, in gifts, in miracles, in social programs, in politics... just so long as he is able to retain a little foothold in our lives, and by so doing get a little honor out of it all for himself. True, he will pollute and twist and demoralize and pervert the human life, if given the opportunity. And how does he go about that? He just teaches man to leave God out of the picture, as we have shown. As long as God is left out, he is honored. And so if there is some religious inclination in any of us, or a nature that aspires after wisdom and knowledge and respectability and moral uprightness, he will seek a place of honor there. If there is a true Christian heart, and one that seeks the extension of the Kingdom of God in the earth, he will seek a place of honor there. His ultimate hope and ambition is to get honor and worship from all people, and lordship over Gods creation.
Satans Quest for Worship
Did Satan request, or insinuate, that Jesus should deny His Divine birth, repudiate His heavenly Father, or forsake the idea of regaining mans lordship over creation? Not at all. He just wanted a little part of the honor. And so he does not hesitate to advertise and popularize Gods men of the hour. Did he take Jesus over to the brow of some hill there in the wilderness, and encourage Him to fall headlong into the arms of the angels? No glory for Satan in that. But he took Him to the wing of the temple in Jerusalem. This would make Jesus famous. Imagine what great advertising He would have from this tremendous miracle, were He to fall headlong from the temple into the arms of the angels, in the sight of all the people milling about in the temple courts!
Satan did not hesitate to advertise Paul and his company as Gods men of the hour. In this way he might get a hold on Paul, and eventually strangle him. The damsel at Philippi had a "spirit of divination". Literally it reads, a "spirit of Python". Python was a serpent in Greek mythology that battled with one of the gods. The Python kills his prey by strangulation; he cuts off the flow of the breath of life. Now this damsel boldly announced:
"These men are the servants of the Most High God, which shew unto us the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17). Right, was she not? Buy why was Satan advertising a man like Paul, who was becoming a threat to the kingdom of darkness? Because he might be able to influence Paul to become his ally; and because a man or woman is no threat to the kingdom of darkness simply because he is preaching, or healing, or extending the knowledge of the Kingdom of God throughout the world. Satans kingdom is only threatened when he beholds a people walking in the way of the Cross! A certain minister told me one time that the Devil appeared to him and said, "I will make you to be the greatest healing evangelist in the world..." But he discerned the voice and resisted the Devil, and he fled from him. If Gods men can become greatly known down here, and receive the praise and honor of men, it is no threat to Satans kingdom; because he holds lordship over this world system, and he will know how to handle that situation a little later on. Sooner or later the pressure will be applied: "The world loves me... the world hates the way of the Cross... what am I going to do?" And so a confrontation is inevitable, and the pressure will be great to relapse into the arms of the world. Jesus said, "The world cannot hate you: but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil" (Jn. 7:7). Why did Constantine take away the reproach of the Cross, stop the persecution, and elevate clergymen and bishops to high political offices in the Empire? Because Satan realized he could not destroy the Church that walked in the way of the Cross, and he came up with a new policy that was designed to cause "the offence of the Cross" to cease... by bringing men of God into positions of authority and esteem in the eyes of the world. And his strategy worked! So well, in fact, that even to this day involvement with the world, with a mixture of politics and religion, is considered to be the proper approach for those who seek the betterment of society, and the removal of our social ills. Gods people must learn that they can only be a blessing to mankind as they manifest the presence of Christ in this evil world, without becoming a part of it.
The Nature of Babylon
"And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a NAME, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4).
The purpose of the first Babel was not to find God, but to make a NAME for themselves and to promote unity. The tower was intended to keep them together, not as a means to find God. As they moved about they would not get separated one from the other; the city and the tower would be the focal point that would enable them to keep together as one people, as they moved around on the plains of Shinar. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. As "god of this world" Satan wants WORSHIP; and as "prince of the power of the air" he wants DOMINION. Therefore he will continue to keep both religion and politics firmly in his grasp. And not only so, but his purpose is to unite the two in an alliance of great unity and power. The new World Church will be very much entrenched in politics. God will permit it, will even promote it... in order to bring the whole political and religious systems together, and to bring both to total destruction in the great Day of God Almighty. Notice what this warfare is all about: It is warfare with the Lamb, and those who are with Him... those who have His lamb-like nature, who are "called, and chosen, and faithful". And notice how God puts it in the heart of political Babylon to destroy religious Babylon, so as to "fulfill His will". Once again, as we have been emphasizing, the enemies of God bring about their own destruction. (See Rev. 16:14-19; 17:1-18).
A New World Church
Jesus told us that in the day of harvest He would send forth the angels, and that they would gather all the "tares" of the harvest field into bundles. Not only will the angels be involved, but so will the hearts of men, and the evil spirits that dominate them. We are going to be amazed how quickly all this could happen. But let us not think this to be incredible, when we realize that spiritual forces are at work to bring it about. As the day of harvest comes upon us, God commands the separation of the WHEAT from the TARES. There is a separation coming between the true and the false. He commands that the tares be bound together into bundles for burning, and that the wheat be gathered into the garner. (See Matt. 13:30). We understand that in the growing process the wheat and the tares are hardly distinguishable to the undiscerning eye. NOW IF THE WHEAT SPEAKS OF THE BLOOD-WASHED PEOPLE OF GOD, THOSE WHO TRULY KNOW HIM...WE KNOW THAT THE TARES ARE A RELIGIOUS PEOPLE, WHO PASS OFF AS TRUE CHRISTIANS. The tares will seek to be like the real thing, as best they can; and to all appearances they are humble, sincere, and godly Christians. But they know nothing of the cleansing of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fruit of His Spirit.
All false religions will be gathered into BUNDLES preparatory to the Day of the LORD. Does this mean there will be one large "Church" embracing Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus... and so forth? Not necessarily; but God says "BUNDLES". Whether all are brought under one structure or not, we do not know. But God sees no difference in any of them if the blood of Jesus Christ is rules out as the only way of salvation; and if He, the Lord Jesus, does not have His Lordship in their hearts and lives.
Remember, the building materials of the first Babel were "brick" instead of "stone". And they used "slime" instead of "mortar" to put it together. Not the binding together of true born-again believers who have received the free gift of Gods grace, and have been "washed in the blood of the Lamb". But they are bound together in a different kind of unity: with the "slime" of church structures, church dogmas, church traditions. The "Church" has supreme authority over the hearts and minds of the people, and ones individual and personal relationship with the Lord matters little or nothing. ...Keep your cultures, keep your devil-worship if you must, just so long as you belong to the "Church"! Just join us, and belong to us, and pay your dues into the "Church"...and we can forgive you all your sins!
They use "brick" instead of "stone". Not each stone carefully shaped and chiseled by the hand of God and His redeeming, transforming grace... and fitted together to form "a habitation of God by the Spirit"...But they are "brick", cast into a mould, and therefore all the same, all in strict conformity to the rules and regulations of the "Church". All made from the clay fields of Shinar, and cast into a mould of religion. Your conscience toward God, and your relationship with Him is only incidental. As long as you give unswerving loyalty to the CHURCH, the SOCIETY, the DENOMINATION, the ORGANIZATION,--whatever it may be called... this is all that really matters. But the true children of God must love and honor Him as their Father, and give unswerving, personal allegiance and loyalty to the Lamb, and follow Him wherever He goes.
We do not need to become extremely knowledgeable in areas that relate to "the mystery of iniquity". But the Lord will give us from time to time what we need to know and understand concerning GOOD AND EVIL; for God does not want us to be ignorant of Satans devices.
The Two Women of Shinar
"And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, this is Wickedness. And he cast it (her) into the midst of the ephah: and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof" (Zech. 5:7,8).
God said the "mystery of iniquity" would continue to work until the day when "the man of sin" was to be revealed; and that throughout this age of the Church there would be a restraining power that would hold back the secret workings of evil, until we drew nigh to the Day of the LORD. (See 2Thess. 2:3-8). Then the restraining hand of God will be lifted, and the "mystery of iniquity" will come to fullness, and will be revealed in the earth.
Zechariah saw a weight (a plate of lead) that was lifted off the ephah, and then he saw the "Wickedness" inside. From time to time God has lifted the weight of lead, and his people have had a glimpse of the workings of the "mystery of iniquity". It was lifted for a season during the Reformation, and men who loved the truth began to cast off the shackles of religious bondage, as scales were removed from their eyes. The very heavens were shaken as Luther, and Calvin, and many other reformers, began to walk in the way of truth, and identified themselves with the Lord Jesus rather than with the religious system. They taught justification by faith, and salvation by grace... rather than by many religious dead works, and penances, and indulgences, and all manner of idolatry.
But the Day of the LORD had not yet come, and the lid was thrown back upon the Woman in the ephah.
"Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and behold, there came out TWO WOMEN, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven" (vs. 9).
Suddenly there were TWO WOMEN. As we have pointed out on several occasions, the number "two" speaks of the corporate expression, and therefore the Body of Christ. Our human body is made up of TWOS... the part, and its counterpart. We have two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs, two lungs, etc.
We believe there is going to come into being a very definite counterfeit of the Body of Christ, and many, many are going to be deceived by it. Jesus did not say that any of His elect would be deceived. What He said was that the deception would be so great, even the very elect would be deceived IF THAT WERE POSSIBLE! (See Matt. 24:24). Do we not detect in this statement that God will have special grace for His own, lest they too fall into this horrible deception? We have to walk very close to the Lord Jesus in this hour, if we are going to know what is light and what is darkness, what is truth and what is error, what is good and what is evil, what is Christ, and what is Antichrist
The ephah was a measuring basket, a vessel for measuring grain. But this ephah is filled not with wheat, but with tares, with wickedness. A plate of heavy lead covers this wickedness, this working of iniquity. False religion, including apostate Christianity, has always been cloaked in dark mystery; and that is why Babylon is seen in the Book of Revelation as "Mystery, Babylon". She, the Mother of false, apostate religion, was revealed for what she was, and then thrust back into the ephah, and covered with the heavy plate of lead; and the "mystery of iniquity" continued on in its secret workings of evil. Protestantism shone as a great light for a season, but the "mystery of iniquity" had not yet come to fullness.
"Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah? And he said unto me, TO BUILD IT A HOUSE IN THE LAND OF SHINAR: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base" (vs. 10,11).
This new Babylon that is coming forth out of the ecumenical movement, with Roman Catholics and Protestants working together (and often with the support of evangelicals and the Charismatic Movement), will be an awesome counterfeit of the Body of Christ in the earth. And it could happen very quickly, because we are told that the "two women" have strong wings like the wings of a stork. And that "the wind was in their wings". The wind was favorable! God is seen holding back the four winds of the heavens for a season, until His servants are sealed in their foreheads with the seal of the living God, even the mind of Christ. (See Rev. 7:3). But when the winds of Heaven are released we are going to witness some very dramatic unfoldings of the "mystery of iniquity", and this new house in the Land of Shinar (where Babel began) will be established, and "set there upon her own base" (vs 11).
Many outstanding men of God are being subjected to great pressures to lend their support to this movement. But more terrifying than that, mighty signs and wonders will be done in the Name of Jesus, and great will be the delusion of those who feel that if there are healings and miracles, it must be of God. All whose names are not written in the Lambs Book of Life will be caught in the snare. They will honor this new "Church", which may well have a new name, one that would be acceptable to most areas of apostate Christendom and other religions. But is will all be according to the working of "the man of sin", and those who are caught in the net will perish with Babylon, in the day when she falls under the mighty impact of Gods warriors from Heaven...whose only weapons will be the armor of Light, and the Sword of the Spirit. "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Rev. 17:14).
PENETRATING THE HEAVENLIES
Often the people of God who desire to walk in truth are accused of neglecting the simple message of the gospel, encumbering it with needless deeper truths, and forgetting about the needs of the world about us. But this is not so. How we long for the release of the gospel of Christ into the hearts of men. But we just know and recognize that the light of the gospel cannot shine forth into the hearts of men until the people of God begin to penetrate the very heavens, and walk in the wisdom of the Cross. If it were just a case of raising more money, for more books, or more tracts, or more radio, or more television, or more missionaries... then we could just concentrate on that; because there is still a lot of money around, a lot of zeal in people, and a lot of good preachers. But if the word of the gospel must penetrate the heavens before it can truly penetrate the hearts of men, then we must earnestly begin to seek the Lord for help and direction... and learn His way for lifting the veil that lies heavily upon all nations. Let us notice the threefold ministration of the gospel, as outlined by the apostle Paul. (See Eph. 3:8-10).
(1) To preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.
(2) To make all men SEE what is involved in the fellowship of the gospel.
(3) To make known in heavenly places the wisdom of God
Let us consider this threefold aspect of the full gospel:
(1) "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ". Unsearchable riches! Why do we persuade ourselves that we have the ultimate gospel, or the full gospel, just because we have certain blessings and gifts, and know how to declare the gospel message from the Bible? The riches that God has for us in Christ Jesus are "unsearchable riches"...and it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to reach into the heart of God, and take the things of Christ, and make them known unto us. "For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1Cor. 2:10). Did you notice why God gave us His Holy Spirit? That He might search out the deep things of God! And now we are told to forget all those deep things, and get on with preaching the simple gospel. The gospel is that ministration by the Spirit which searches out the depths of God. For what purpose? "That we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (vs. 12).
(2) "And to make all men SEE what is the fellowship of the mystery..." The gospel is not just a message declared... IT IS A SECRET REVEALED. For the word "mystery" means "secret"...a secret that is made known to those who are initiated into it.
In vain are we going to simplify the gospel by portraying it vividly with musical talent, or by drama, or by puppeteering, or with the art of rhetoric, or eloquence of speech. Scales have to be removed from blinded eyes before men are able to "SEE what is the fellowship of the mystery". It is not just a case of persuading men to turn from one religion to another. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (2Cor. 4:4). The hearts of men have got to be pierced by the sword of the Spirit before they are able to SEE.
"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory... as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit" (1Cor. 2:7-10).
No one can come to know God, except blinded eyes are opened, and deaf ears unstopped. The gospel is a "mystery", a "secret" that men can only know as the Spirit of God reveals Christ to their hearts.
"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast REVEALED them unto babes: even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him" (Luke 10:21,22).
Jesus came to reveal the Father, to make known and unveil the Jehovah-God of the Old Testament. He did this as He walked in total union with Him, saying only what the Father gave Him to speak, doing only what the Father gave Him to do. No one else knows the Father unless the Son reveals Him. And this is what the gospel is all about... to take away the blindness from eyes that men might come to see and know God. Paul so preached Christ in Galatia as he walked in the infirmity and weakness of his flesh, that the Spirit of God flowed forth from his life and message, and the people SAW the Christ, crucified in their very midst (Gal. 3:11). And in seeing the Christ the scales of darkness dropped from their eyes.
God help us to understand that we do not proclaim the gospel merely with books and words and song. There must be a revelation, and unveiling of the Christ, by a ministration of the Spirit of God.
(3) "To the intent that NOW unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by (or THROUGH) the Church the manifold wisdom of God".
What Paul said before about preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ, and having fellowship in the secret of Christ, was all leading up to something else: "TO THE INTENT THAT NOW..." Gods purpose in all this is that there might be a penetration of the wisdom of God into the heavenly realm. It is not just an earthly ministration: traveling far and wide with a message. There must be a heavenly penetration of the wisdom of God.
People continue to say, "now lets not get so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good". The Devil started that saying. For he knows that we are of no earthly good because we are not heavenly minded. We have not been able to penetrate the heavens with "the manifold wisdom of God", and therefore the powers of darkness are left undisturbed, and the powers of the heavenly Kingdom are not alerted to what we are saying, or what we are doing. TO THE INTENT THAT NOW! The intention of the gospel is not there, in most of our preaching. The intention of the gospel is to BIND in Heaven those forces that are loose in the earth, and must be bound before men can see and hear. The intention of the gospel is to LOOSE in Heaven those forces of the Kingdom that need to be loosed in the earth. Like the sons of Sceva, we might have the right formula: "I bind this evil spirit in the Name of Jesus"...but rarely is there any real work accomplished because we are not known and recognized in heavenly places, and our words are not heard or obeyed. The apostle tells us that the intention of the gospel is that the wisdom of God might be revealed NOW in heavenly places, through the Church. Let us ponder this statement. Here we are on earth, in the midst of all earths distress and bondage. Why should I care about revealing the wisdom of God to principalities and powers in the heavens? Let us leave those far-out things alone, and get on with our task of preaching the gospel in all the world!
Then suddenly we are brought face to face with the realization that the wisdom of God is the wisdom of the Cross; and that if we are not walking in the pathway of total obedience to the will of God, and identifying with the Cross of Christ--we are not making any inroads into the world of darkness, because we are not known and recognized in heavenly places. Suddenly we come to realize that IF WE ARE NOT KNOWN AND RECOGNIZED UP THERE, WE ARE NOT GOING TO BE OF ANY EARTHLY GOOD DOWN HERE.
If we could only believe this, what a difference it would make in our whole approach to the ministry of the gospel! Our whole way of life would be utterly changed. Our prayer life would be utterly changed. For as we begin to walk in the obedience of the Cross we would find the very atmosphere of prayer would be impregnated with the will of God, and the desire to do only those things that are pleasing in His sight. Our only desire would be to become a vessel approved of God, and to care nothing about the approval of men. And then would we discover what Jesus talked about when He said, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (Jn. 15:7). We would know how to give ourselves to the Spirit of God, that He might through us make "intercession for the saints according to the will of God". We would learn how to "pray in the Holy Spirit": "fervent" prayers, "hot" prayers, that are baptized with the fire of Heaven... prayers that reach the throne of God.
Beloved, we are going to have to get better acquainted in Heaven if we are going to be of any earthly good down here. We have got to begin penetrating the heavens with the wisdom of God, if we are going to see the scales removed from the eyes of men, and the captive souls of men set free.
We are talking about the Wisdom of the Cross. Lord, teach us how to walk in the wisdom of the Cross!
THE WISDOM OF THE CROSS
"For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1Cor. 1:21-24).
The Jews... those who believe in God the Creator, the God of power. Gods answer to them is the Cross!
The Greeks... the intellectuals, the seekers after wisdom: God says to them, Behold the Cross! And they scoff, What foolishness!
But to you and me who believe (whether by nature Jew or Greek)... Christ crucified becomes the POWER of God, and the WISDOM of God. And the world is yet to discover, in the Day of the LORD that this whole world system is going to come to NOUGHT by a people who have embraced the way of the Cross.
The choice is clear: if we want to realize the potential for success that lies within us, there are any number of best-sellers in our local Christian book-stores to help us along. But if we truly want to be a part of that company of people who are going to invade the world of darkness and the heavenly realms with the wisdom of God, and bring release to the captive souls and spirits of men... you and I are going to have to set our faces as a flint toward the pathway of the Cross. There are many schools and colleges of religion that will teach you how to become successful in ministry. But only the School of Obedience will teach you how to become weak, that you might become strong; how to become fools, that you might become wise; and the heroes of faith that we read about in the scriptures will no longer be our heroes, but companions of the Cross.
Then will we be able to identify with the left-handed Ehuds, who do not FIT in our society, nor in our churches, because they are always wanting to use the left hand instead of the right. But they will also learn the secret of overcoming the oppressing Eglons who sit in their parlors in high places, secure and content, with "their goods in peace" because the people of God are under their dominion. They will be able to identify with the poor in Manasseh... with Gideon and his little band, whose only weapons were a pitcher that had to be broken, a lamp that had to shine, and a trumpet that had to be blown. And they will know that the sword of their warfare is nothing less than the Sword of the Lord. They will begin to identify with Deborah and Barak, and the little army who "jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field"...and stirred the very heavens into action on behalf of the people of God. They will be able to identify with Jehoshaphat, who went forth into battle without the use of sword or spear, and saw the enemies of God routed. They will be able to identify with Hezekiah, who had no strength to resist the invasion of Sennacherib, but when morning came they rose to behold 185,000 stalwart Assyrian soldiers scattered "like leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown".
But above all, we will be able to identify with our Lord Jesus, and with saints and martyrs of the Church age, who followed the Lamb in battle, and overcame the hosts of Evil "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony".
The Cross, a New Way of Life
Perhaps we would like to persuade ourselves that in some theoretical way we were crucified with Christ on His Cross, and so now all we have to do is appropriate His life. But if we are going to truly know this new life, we are going to have to know an experiential day-by-day identification with that Cross, in order that we might walk continually in the power of His resurrection.
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 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. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh" (2Cor. 4:7-11).
True, Jesus died on the Cross once and for all. But in actual fact He was born under the shadow of the Cross, lived and moved in the reality of it, and in the fullness of obedience to the will of God, He died upon it. So it must be with His people. We must embrace that once for all Sacrifice. But in doing so, we must take up our cross daily and follow Him.
The Mystery of the Cross
God give us insight and revelation to see the depths of the WISDOM and of the POWER of the Cross. Satan has extended his dominion over the whole human race ever since the Fall. His weapons of destruction have been revealed in Fear, Hate, Torment, Strife, Pride, Conceit... all these negative traits that have harassed the whole human family from the beginning. Where did it all come from? Who created it? We have already pointed out the secret of the origin of Evil: It was THE EXCLUSION OF GOD that brought it about. If God is excluded, there it is. God is LOVE and LIGHT and TRUTH. If men deny God a place in their lives, and so cut Him off... there is HATRED, and DARKNESS, and ERROR.
Now in the fullness of time Christ comes on the scene to undo the curse that engulfed the human race because of Adams disobedience. He walks in total harmony and obedience to the will of God. And because He walks in total LIGHT the opposing forces of Darkness become even more intensely DARK. Because He is LOVE, and walks in total harmony with God who is LOVE, the forces of Hate become more and more intensely hateful. Because He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, the forces of Evil rose up against Him in greater and greater opposition. Because He lived a totally holy life in the very presence of sin, He reproved the sins of men who "loved darkness rather than light".
Now the mystery of the Cross is revealed in this: that He accepted all the reproof, all the hatred, all the bitterness, all the strife that raged against Him. He bore it all, and in the Wisdom of God which seemed so negative to the world, and even to His own disciples... He dies on a Cross. As it were, He becomes THE NEGATIVE THAT CANCELS OUT THE NEGATIVE. He suffers the DEATH that cancels out the DEATH. He becomes the CURSE that cancels the CURSE. He becomes the SIN that cancels the SIN. "For God hath made Him to be SIN for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2Cor. 5:21). Christ crucified becomes the PLAGUE... THE PLAGUE THAT PLAGUES THE PLAGUE OF DEATH:
"O death, I will be thy plagues;
O grave, I will be thy destruction" (Hos. 13:14).
What can we say to these things?
"O the depth of the riches
Both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments,
And His ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33).
The Romans said the Cross was the most despicable of all forms of capital punishment. In the Wisdom of God the world is yet to see, in the consummation of the working of the Cross in the lives of His people, the eradication of SIN, and DEATH, and the CURSE from the face of the earth. God has given us the secret of overcoming the Evil that is rampant in the world about us:
We overcome HATE with LOVE.
We overcome PRIDE with HUMILITY.
We overcome CURSING with BLESSING.
We overcome EVIL with GOOD.
We overcome DARKNESS with LIGHT.
We overcome ERROR with TRUTH.
These are not intended as some idles, poetic words. This evil world of sin and rebellion and hate is yet to be totally subdued by an army of overcomers, who use the weapons of the Cross as their only weapons. Beloved, let us submit ourselves to the outworking of the Cross of Christ in our lives. Let us, in union with Him and His Cross, come to know the beauty of the Lord upon our lives, that we might lift the curse that has engulfed the hearts and minds of men. Creation is waiting for this, even for "the manifestation of the sons of God".
Gods Judgment of the World
Jesus said, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (Jn. 12:31).
The Cross is Gods judgment of this world. It appears to have been the other way around: that is was the world that judged Christ. But in the Wisdom of God it was God who judged the world.
Paul was able to boast, therefore, in the Cross. "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).
Who really killed Jesus? Historically, yes it was the Jews who handed the Son of God over to the Gentiles for crucifixion. But the Cross is more than a historical event. It was a timeless event... an event that belonged to the ages. Who killed Jesus! It was you and I... and all of us, that killed Jesus! It was the priests and the religious leaders that killed Jesus. All of us are responsible, because it was your sin and mine... sins that we inherited from Adam, and the sins of Adam that we have multiplied over and over again in every generation... it was the sins of the whole world that killed Jesus.
Let us see the Wisdom of God revealed in all that transpired that dark day on Golgotha:
The proud and the haughty said, We have Him in our grasp! But God said, when you nailed My Son to the Cross, it was there and then that I stained the pride of all your glory!
The political rulers said, We have eliminated the trouble that is disturbing the people, and making them restless and uncontrollable. But God said, It was there at the Cross that I brought down the whole political systems of Rome, and of the world, to the dust.
The soldiers said, We have overpowered You, ...You are now secure on the Cross. But God said, when My Son hung on the Cross I destroyed the military might and glory of all nations.
Religion said, We have put an end to your heresy and your fanaticism. But God said, When you crucified My Son, I put an end to all the religions of men that refuse to bow at the foot of the Cross, and recognize the Lord Jesus as Lord of all.
Sin that reigned supreme in the hearts of men said, He is a sinner, and this is the end of Him. But God said, It was there on the Cross that I condemned SIN in the flesh of my Son, that My people who receive Him as their sin offering, might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Death boasted, I have destroyed the Last Adam, even as I destroyed the first one. But God said, When My Son hung upon the Cross, it was you O Death, that was brought to destruction.
When the Cross was erected on Golgotha (which means the Place of a Skull), God had ordained it so; for it was here, in the FOOLISHNESS OF GOD that He would bring the wisdom of man to a skull, and show forth the infinite heights of His wisdom.
The Triumph of the Cross
The Cross is Gods JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD! And in that great and terrible Day of the LORD, God is going to execute the sentence of judgment that He decreed at Golgotha. We may be inclined to believe that Christ came as a Lamb to redeem us, but that in His resurrection and enthronement He is now ruling on the throne of glory as a Lion. This is not exactly right; and it is yet to be revealed and made manifest in the earth, that He who conquered over sin and Satan and the world by His sacrifice of the Cross, is now ruling and reigning as THE LAMB on the throne. The Lion of Judah is only mentioned once in the Book of Revelation, and twenty-eight times as the Lamb! When no one was worthy to open the book and loose the seals, one of the elders said, "Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof" (Rev. 5:5). But when John turned to see this mighty Lion... "Lo, in the midst of the throne... stood a Lamb as it had been slain" (vs.6). It is significant that John the beloved never saw "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" as a powerful lion, either here or elsewhere in the Book of Revelation. Why?--we might ask. Because this "Lion" was still the Lamb in heart, in nature and in character; and God wants His people to always see Him and worship Him as the Lamb on the throne, and to "follow the Lamb" of meekness, rather than the Lion of power. These wounds in His hands and feet and side are no longer the bruises inflicted upon Him by sinful men, but badges of Honor and Glory! And if we would reign with Him, He wants us to know it is only as we "suffer with Him".
"The book" sealed with the seven seals, that was given to the Lamb, is the record of Gods righteous judgments in the earth and in the heavens, and the unfolding of His purposes to rid the earth of its curse and its evil. How do I know? Because when the Lamb opens the seals, that is what He reveals. It is the story of the Triumph of the Lamb over all the forces of Evil. He alone is worthy to administer these judgments, because He triumphed over Evil with Good when He went to the Cross; and God has placed all things "under His feet". I know the apostle Paul said, "we see not yet all things put under Him" (Heb. 2:8). But God has declared the decree of His Lordship over all creation, and He is yet to be revealed as the conquering LAMB in the "day of His power" (See Ps. 2:6,7; 110:1-7).
And so it is the Lamb "as it had been slain", who is honored and worshipped because of His sacrifice (Rev. 5:6,8).
It is "the Lamb that was slain" who receives "power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing" (vs. 12).
It is the Lamb that is exalted and honored by all creatures "in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them" (vs. 13).
It is the Lamb who takes the book, and opens the seals of Gods purposes and releases His righteous judgments in the earth (Ch. 6:1,3,5, etc.).
It is the "wrath of the Lamb"...not the wrath of a Lion, that strikes fear into the kings are great men of the earth (Ch. 6:16,17).
It is the Lamb before whom the redeemed of the Lord stand, washed in His blood, and clothed in white garments (Ch. 7:9,10,14).
It is the Lamb "in the midst of the throne" who shepherds and leads His flock "unto living fountains of waters" (vs. 17).
It is "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony" that His people overcome, because they like their Master "loved not their lives unto the death" (Ch. 12:11).
It is in the book of life of "the Lamb that was slain" that the names of His redeemed are recorded in Heaven (Ch. 13:8).
It is the Lamb who stands on mount Sion with the "redeemed from the earth" (Ch. 14:1,3); and these "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth", and are "firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" (vs. 4).
Those who worship the beast and his image are tormented "with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" (vs.10).
The overcomers stand on the sea of glass, singing "the song of Moses... and the song of the Lamb" (Ch. 15:3).
Political Babylon, in alliance with religious Babylon... together "make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them", for it is the Lamb who is "Lord of lords, and King of kings" (Ch. 17:4).
It is the Lamb who receives the reward of His sacrifice, when "His wife hath made herself ready" and is presented to Him as His spotless Bride. She is "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white"; and together they sit down at "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Ch. 19:7-9).
And then John saw "the bride, the Lambs wife" pictured as "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" and "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Ch. 21:2,9,10).
In the twelve foundations of the city are written "the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (vs. 14). In this city there is no temple, for God has found His eternal habitation in the Lamb, a home of supreme joy and delight. "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb" are the temple of this city (vs. 22).
"And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" (vs. 23). The Lamb is the lamp, from which the light of God shines forth upon the redeemed.
The inhabitants of the city are those "which are written in the Lambs book of life", ...clean and holy and without defilement (vs. 27).
"A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal" flows forth from "the throne of God and of the Lamb"...from ONE throne of God, not two... with the Lamb in the midst of the throne (Ch. 22:1,3; See Ch. 7:17).
It is THE LAMB who opens the seals, because it is THE LAMB that has conquered by the blood of His Cross... and it is the LAMB we see all through the book, ...ruling and reigning and shepherding His people, and executing Gods righteous judgments in the earth.
AND THE LAMB IS YET TO RECEIVE THE FULL REWARD OF HIS SACRIFICE!
The Meek shall Inherit the Earth
Let us make no mistake about this. There are a lot of glory-seekers in the Church today. There are a lot of power-seekers. There are a lot of success-seekers. There are many who are talking about Kingdom truth, and about reigning with Christ with rods of iron. But how many of these are advocating identification with the Lamb, in order that they might qualify to sit with Him in His throng? Let us be assured that it is not those who know and embrace Kingdom truth, who will reign with Christ in His throne. It will be "the poor in spirit" who take the Kingdom. It will be "the meek" that "shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:3,5). The word "meek" implies a total lack of self-interest... one who surrenders his own will to the will of another. Jesus couples "meekness" with "lowliness" when speaking of Himself. He bids His disciples to get into His yoke if they would discover the rest and peace that He enjoys in the yoke of the Father: "I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt. 11:29). Because He is meek, He has no need to defend Himself; and therefore He is considered to be weak in the eyes of men. A meek person has known the chastening and discipline of the Lord, and has proven Gods faithfulness in the fiery trials that have burned away the strength of the human heart and will, and replaced this with great confidence and faith in the One who humbled him.
"The fear of Isaac" seems like a strange title for a man who walked away from the wells he had dug, when the Philistines strove for them and took them by force. But somehow they began to detect the strength of the man, and came to him to make a covenant that he would not hurt them. "Why do you come to me," Isaac asked, "when you hated me so much?" They replied, "We certainly saw that the LORD was with thee" (Gen. 26:28,29). Lord, may our strength be only in this, that Thou are with us! In later years his son Jacob was very much aware of the godly fear of his father Isaac supporting him, when his uncle Laban mistreated him. Then the two men made a covenant of peace, "And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac" (See Gen. 31:42,53).
Moses was said to have been "very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3). He fled in fear from the face of Pharaoh when he was a strong and mighty prince in Egypt. But 40 years later he was back in Egypt with his brother Aaron to deliver the nation of Israel from their bondage. Can you imagine how mighty Pharaoh felt when this humble shepherd walked into his royal courts one day with a stick in his hand, and commanded "Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go..." (Ex. 5:1)? Why didnt Pharaoh arrest him right there, and put an end to the whole matter? Pharaoh didnt dare flock to God, through this meek and humble shepherd, we see Pharaoh begging for mercy several times, and finally asking Moses to remember him in prayer.
Samuel was a meek man. When God told him to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be king, he was afraid of Saul. He was a weak, old man, and he knew it. But when the elders of Bethlehem heard he was on his way to their town they "trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?" (1Sam. 16:4). They were quite aware that this old prophet was moving in the authority and power of God.
Paul came to Corinth "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (1Cor. 2:3). Herein lay his strength... not just that he was anointed to preach the Gospel of the Cross, but that he walked in the weakness of the Cross. He rejoiced that when he was weak, then he was able to put on the strength of the Lord: "for when I am weak", he said, "then am I strong" (2Cor. 12:10).
Jesus Himself did not put on a face of strength, or try to appear mighty, in the face of opposition. He was a Lamb throughout His ministry in the earth, and He continues to reign on the throne of glory as "the Lamb that was slain". He took His disciples and withdrew from Jerusalem when they faced severe opposition. Was it weakness? He was neither brave, nor yet a coward. He was meek! He just lived and moved in the yoke of the Father, learning obedience in all that He suffered. Then He came back to Jerusalem, walking in that same yoke, to die in weakness at the hands of a powerful Roman governor. Paul said our Lord was "crucified through weakness" (2Cor. 13:4). This is what Paul meant by "the weakness of God". It is "weakness" from the viewpoint of men who consider meekness to be weakness. The apostle tells us that this kind of "weakness" is "stronger than men" (1Cor. 1:25). He laid down His life as a bleeding Lamb. And now He is reigning, and will continue to reign eternally, as the Lamb upon the throne.
Why a Lamb on the Throne?
Now we know that Christ is indeed "the Lion of the tribe of Judah", with all power in heaven and in earth at His command. Why then does the Spirit emphasize, all through the Book of Revelation, not once but 28 times, that it is the Lamb that is reigning, and the Lamb that is shepherding the flock of God? And whoever heard of a Lamb shepherding the flock? Or a Lamb striking kings and potentates of the earth with fear, and crying out for the rocks to hide them?
HE REIGNS AS THE LAMB, BECAUSE IT IS HIS INTENTION TO BRING FORTH THE CHARACTER OF THE LAMB IN US, THAT WE TOO MIGHT REIGN WITH HIM, IN HIS THRONE (Rev. 3:21).
EVEN NOW ON THE THRONE OF GLORY HE IDENTIFIES HIMSELF WITH A SUFFERING LAMB-PEOPLE IN THE EARTH.
He hears and feels those blasphemous attacks against His suffering Church in the earth, because He is joined unto them by one Spirit. What a shock it must have been to Saul of Tarsus, when he heard the voice of the Lord of Glory saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"
May the Lord open our eyes to see "the Lamb that was slain" on the throne of Glory, that we might be transformed into His image by seeing Him AS HE IS. Only then will we be able to reign with Him in life, overshadowed in our weakness by His mighty power.
The Travail of God
Why did God permit Evil to come into the world? Surely He could have prevented it if He had wished to do so. Why, at least, did He not put an end to the reign of Evil long before now? The apostle answers hard questions like these by asking another one: "What if God...?" What if He purposed to bring greater glory out of it all? What if He had a better plan?
If we could only sense the heart of God we would realize that it has been with great PAIN that God has restrained Himself, as He has witnessed the terror and reign of Evil these thousands of years. This is one side of God we can very easily lose sight of in all of those theological arguments as to why God the Omnipotent has permitted this horrible reign of evil. We know about human suffering; but we fail to realize that God IS SUFFERING, AND THAT HE HAS SUFFERED LONG with the evil of mens hearts. He has ENDURED patience and long-suffering beyond our ability to comprehend.
"What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, ENDURED WITH MUCH LONG-SUFFERING THE VESSELS OF WRATH FITTED TO DESTRUCTION?" (Rom. 9:22). He has longed to rise up in vengeance on behalf of His chosen ones, as He has witnessed the evil perpetrated against them. He has heard the prayers of saints and martyrs, who cry out: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell in the earth?" (Rev. 6:10). God is pained with their pain, and He tells them, "You must wait yet a little while. I have other sons whom I am preparing for glory... they must know the sufferings of the Cross, even as you have..." And so the apostle explains a little concerning His purpose in enduring the evil in this world. Again we must emphasize that God has been suffering pain beyond our ability to comprehend:
"What if God... ENDURED WITH MUCH LONG-SUFFERING THE VESSELS OF WRATH FITTED TO DESTRUCTION: AND THAT HE MIGHT MAKE KNOWN THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY ON THE VESSELS OF MERCY" (Rom. 9:22,23). Thats Gods answer, dear ones, when we question Him this way. He is preparing still other VESSELS OF MERCY! He will bear the pain a little longer. I recall a certain woman (as they discussed the horrible pains of womankind) remarking, "God has to be a Man..." She was saying, God just does not know what the pain of childbirth is all about. Beloved, He knows all about it! Hear what He says, "I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry LIKE A TRAVAILING WOMAN; I will destroy and devour at once" (Isa. 42:14). There is something almost explosive in Gods heart. The prayers and the cryings and the travail of saints and martyrs have been stored up in the vials of Heaven, even in His own heart. He likens Himself to a travailing woman at the hour of her birth.
Who are we to say, Why Lord have you waited so long? God said He would never hold His peace till this people came forth in the light and in the splendor of His salvation:
"For Zions sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalems sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth" (Isa. 62:1). And because this is the burden of His heart, He puts the same burden upon His people:
"I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem," and the Spirit encourages them to "Give Him no REST, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (vs. 7).
A Manchild is to be Born
God has refrained Himself, and restrained Himself, throughout long ages. Suddenly there comes forth in the endtime a manchild, and the prophet is amazed how quickly it seemed to have happened.
"Before she travailed, she brought forth: before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child" (Isa. 66:7). "Who ever heard of such a thing?" Isaiah asked. A holy nation born in one day? I think the prophet is emphasizing that no longer will there be an extension of the age-long yearning in the heart of God to rise up on behalf of His people in the earth; for he goes on to say, "As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children" (Isa. 66:8). Notice that the one who is called the man child in vs. 7, is called Zions "children" in vs. 8. It is ONE but many... a corporate MAN... the corporate MAN that Paul speaks about in Eph. 4:13, a "perfect MAN"...a people walking in such union and harmony with Christ, that they are seen as ONE MAN. It is the people born of the woman that was "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev. 12:1)... Coming forth in the end-time because Gods precious ones of all ages have cried and travailed before God for the triumph and victory of His people. We may wonder why God did not come forth in the early days of the human family, in the time of the prophets... But He said in His heart, "I must bring forth other Vessels of Mercy, prepared unto Glory".
But the question remains. If He must have "vessels of mercy"...well and good--but why does He not destroy the "vessels of wrath"? And Gods answer is, "I am going to overcome the Evil with the Good--so I will use the vessels of wrath to polish and refine the vessels of mercy... and by the very love and mercy and truth that they walk in, they will be My weapons to destroy the Evil". And so He endures "with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath" in order "that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy" (Rom. 9:23). When we see "vessels of wrath" pouring out their hot flames against the people of God, let us remember this. God is at the same time using them to prepare "vessels of mercy" for His own glory. Satan may stoke the flames and add fuel to the fire, and if God sees fit, He may urge him on. For He knows Satan does not understand the wisdom of the Cross--he does not know that God is using him to refine the gold... using him to prepare another "vessel unto honor", a vessel approved of God. Using Satan, yes, to bring about his own destruction.
When God chose a "brand plucked out of the fire" to be the high priest of the restored temple in Jerusalem, the opposition was strong and heavy. Satan stood there beside Joshua to resist him. Here was a brand in the fire. It ought to have been burned along with all the other sticks in the fire. God knew that. So did Satan. But God saw fit to pluck it out! Some Christians do not like Gods autocratic ways. And Satan didnt like it either. But Michael the Archangel fully approved, and rebuked Satan in the Name of the Lord. (See Zech. 3:1,2).
And so we rejoice that God lets us see the other side of His seemingly strange and arbitrary ways. He doesnt show us too much... but enough to cause the pure in heart to...
Rejoice in the midst of tribulation, knowing Gods intention is good...
Recognize that God is pained with their pain, and continues with much long-suffering to postpone the day of His vengeance...
Be assured that God is using those fiery trials to defeat the Enemy who is adding fuel to the fire, and stoking the flames...
His glorious design being that after He has suffered age-long endurance, He will bring forth "vessels of mercy" for the eternal praise and glory of His Name.
In the fullness of time God brought forth His Only Begotten, whom men slew and hung upon a tree. And there and then God condemned the world, and with it all the hate, and the murder, and the strife, and the violence that existed in the hearts of men. But God said, I have yet many more Vessels of Mercy that I must bring forth, for my glory. And so He has waited, and waited, and all the while He has known and experienced great LONG-SUFFERING, anticipating the day of glory when His people of Mercy would arise in the earth, to put an end to the reign of TERROR AND EVIL, by overcoming the Evil of the world with Mercy and Truth and Love.
Who is this manchild, that is caught up to God and His throne? They are vessels of Mercy. They overcome, even as their Lord and Saviour overcame. They walk in Heaven, even as they move upon the earth... as Jesus did when He was here. They are known in heavenly places, because they love even as He loved, live even as He lived, show mercy even as He showed mercy, forgive even as He forgave, are meek and lowly even as He was meek and lowly. And because they live as He lived, they are hated even as He was hated. Yet in the end they overcome EVIL with GOOD, even as Jesus overcame EVIL with GOOD.
And so we stand on the threshold of the Day of the LORD, when the sentence of the Cross shall be executed in all its Fury and in all its Mercy, in all its Darkness and in all its Light, in all its Deception and in all its Truth. For the truth of God will crowd all men into one of two areas: into the DARKNESS AND DEATH of a world that hates God, or into the LIGHT AND THE GLORY of a people who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, and bow in submission at His feet.
The Burnt Offering
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1).
Do we desire to identify with the Cross... and thereby with the WISDOM and the POWER of God? This is the only way we can do it. Bring to Him your burnt offering.
"He shall offer it of his own voluntary will (or, for his acceptance) at the door of the tabernacle" (Lev. 1:3).
Unlike the Israelites of old, we cant go to the flocks and get something to die in our place. Jesus did that for us, that is true. But there were five offerings that Moses instituted for the people of God; and as the sin offering Jesus fulfilled that in a very unique way. He only could die for the sins of the world. But the burnt offering was different. It speaks of a life of obedience unto the will of God; and you and I have a part in this offering as we present our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God". In this offering we must "present ourselves" and not merely some of our valued possessions. And we are not going to discover a dying out to sin, until there is truly a dying out to SELF, on the Altar of Burnt Offering. (Rom. 12:1,2).
Next, "he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering". We are saying in effect: I accept the judgment of God upon my HEAD. I accept the fact, O Lord, that I cannot serve you acceptably unless you deal with the thoughts of my mind, which are at enmity with your thoughts. I must be renewed in the "spirit of the mind" if I am going to know Your mind, and walk in Your ways. And then I look aside at the Cross on which my Lord Jesus died, and I see that His head was also smitten, and they placed a crown of thorns upon His brow... thorns which grew in the earth because of Adams sin. He suffered it all that I might know the mind of Christ, and walk in the Spirit, and be delivered from the law of sin and death. And therefore we pray, "O Lord, take my mind, and let it know the bruising of Your crown of thorns that I might henceforth think your thoughts, and love your ways"
"And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD... and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar" (vs. 5). He did all that for me, that I might live. But in the Burnt Offering I must know that I can only know this life as I too find myself hanging there with Him. I must learn the same obedience.
"And they overcame him (the Dragon) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. And they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:11).
"And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces... and the priests, Aarons sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire" (Lev. 1:6,8).
The pieces... the parts. All the inner thoughts and workings of the fleshly nature totally exposed and laid bare before the priest. Only God can do this. Only our High Priest can do this. But we have to present ourselves to Him, that He might do it in us.
The parts... the head... the fat... O, if we could only know the longing of Gods heart to take us and cleanse us, to bring to light the hidden things of darkness, cutting asunder soul and spirit, the joints and the marrow, and discerning discovering exposing "the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). We do not really know ourselves until the piercing sword of Gods Spirit begins to divide and cut asunder and expose. What an exposing of the heart there will be when He with eyes as a flame of fire accepts our offering, and begins to uncover and lay bare the PARTS before His searching, purifying, cleansing eye!
And so may we understand the implications of our Burnt Offering. Our hands must be nailed to the Cross, that when I begin to serve Him from the fire of the Burnt Offering, it will no longer be my hands, but His, that I lay upon the bodies and souls of men for their healing. My feet must be fastened securely to that Tree, that henceforth I might walk with the "beautiful feet" of the risen Christ, upon the mountains of anointing and victory, bringing the gospel of peace to the captive souls of men. My side must be pierced, that blood and water might flow from my broken heart... if I am going to know the release of living waters from my heart... living waters that are saturated with the precious blood of Jesus, and flowing forth in healing, life-giving streams to the nations of the world.
How many of us have searched through the writings of the famous overcomers in Church history, hoping to discover the secret of living the life of Christ! And then when we came to the five easy steps to victory we would underscore them, and go about trying to make it work... only to discover a few days later that somehow the work had not been done. And so we would turn to another book, and still another... hoping to discover the secret of life, only to suffer disappointment over and over again.
What are we saying? Simply that the Burnt Offering is entirely through the working of our great High Priest in the heavens. The Israelite of old would bring his offering to the priest, lay his hand on the head of the bullock and slay it. Perhaps He understood nothing of what it all meant, but without knowing it, he was saying, "I identify myself with this offering that is slain". Then the priest would take it and do all the rest. The priest would be responsible to arrange the wood on the fire, and lay the parts on the wood, and stoke the fire that would cause the offering to ascend to God "as a sweet savor unto the LORD".
And so I must leave you with but one requirement, and I must accept it for myself. As we bring our offering unto the Lord, our great High Priest, we must leave it there for Him to finish the work! (Just remembering, of course, that our "bullock" has four legs, and our "turtledove" has two wings.) I mean, when we bring our offering to Him, we must decree the sentence of death for the whole man... and stay before the Altar until we are sure the Priest has us under His control. We must ask Him to do it for us, and in us:
"Lord, bruise my head, my hands, my feet, my side, my heart. Expose my inward parts completely to the sword of Your Spirit, and to fires of Your Altar... that out from the futility of a life that I have lived in the energies and carnal strivings of my fleshly nature, You in Your grace and power and in the wisdom of Your Cross, might consume my sacrifice with Fire from off the Altar, that it may ascend as incense before the Lord...
An offering made by fire,
Of a sweet savor unto the LORD.
"And rather than fearing the cost, and shrinking from the reproach of it all, grant us, Lord, such a revelation of Thy glory that we might willingly count all but dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord".
The Happy Medium
At this present time there are three classes of people in the Church: Those who are given over to Christ, those who are given over to their own ways... and those who live on the little Island of Neutrality. It is a small island, and it is getting smaller every day, but it is still crowded with people. Jesus speaks of these in His letter to the Church at Laodicea:
They are not really HOT, but not really COLD.
They are not really heavenly-minded, but not really earthly-minded.
They want Heaven when they die, but they do not want to walk in Heaven while they live here.
They talk about the Cross, sing about the Cross, but they do not want to die upon it.
THEY JUST WANT THE HAPPY MEDIUM!
But this little Island of Neutrality is built of sinking sand; and when the storms of the Day of the LORD begin to break upon us, it is going to dissolve. The people of the world and of the Church are going to be pressured into one camp or the other. We will have to come out for Christ: out from the world, out from its politics, its religious systems, its pleasures, its warfare, its whole way of life... Or we will become engulfed in the domain of the Dragon, the political realm of the Beast, and the religious systems of the False Prophet. It may sound unreasonable and illogical that good respectable "Christians" could ever get involved with demonic cults and systems, with witchcraft, and with religions that are structured under Satanic principles. But it is happening now, and it will continue to take on momentum as we approach the Day of the Lord, when there will be but TWO CAMPS:
"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the Beast), whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8).
When the Lord tells us that He is going to release the "spirits of devils, working miracles" in order to gather together the forces of Evil to Armageddon... to that great day of God Almighty, take notice once again of that little parenthesis that immediately follows:
"Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Rev. 16:15). God is saying very clearly, Be Prepared! Lest in that day you are found naked, and not clothed upon with the Armor of Light... the Armor of Righteousness!
The Sons of Sceva
"Then certain of the vagabond (traveling) Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, JESUS I KNOW, AND PAUL I KNOW; BUT WHO ARE YE? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded" (Acts 19:13-16). (Remember how Jesus warned His people concerning the Day of Evil: to WATCH... to KEEP HIS GARMENTS... LEST HE WALK NAKED, AND THEY SEE HIS SHAME").
Activity of this kind from the world of darkness may sound like a very unusual situation; and of course it would be if it happened today. But beloved, we are going to see some awesome things happen when the people of God begin to walk in heavenly places, and the Wisdom of God begins to penetrate the heavens. Heavenly forces will once again recognize the company of JESUS AND PAUL. Those who dabble in religious services, and talk about the "Jesus that Paul preacheth", but entertain the people with all kinds of religious garbage... and know not the Way of the Cross... are going to suffer disaster in that day. The sons of Sceva were of the priestly order, and there were seven of them. They were part of the old and apostate priestly order, but they were moving under a false spirit. There is a FALSE CHURCH out there that understands the correct terminology, and know about Paul and Jesus... but not walking in the Way of the Cross and in the Light of Jesus. They are not known UP THERE, and their mission is going to end in disaster DOWN HERE. Many of these people are getting away with it right now. But when Gods people walking in the Wisdom of the Cross, and in the fear of the Lord, begin to penetrate the world of darkness, those evil powers are going to be greatly upset and perturbed. The forces of Evil know nothing about honor and truth; and though they will cooperate with evil men for a season, they will eventually destroy them. When the Lamb on the throne is worshipped and adored by a redeemed and holy people, the powers of evil are terrified. They cannot harm those who are walking in the Light, but they are going to lash out against those who are playing Church, and experimenting with holy things. We can expect to see some ugly, demonic attacks against those who use the Name of Jesus to glorify themselves, or to entertain the people... but are dishonoring the Lamb upon the throne.
God wants His people to begin walking on the streets of their heavenly heritage in Zion: "For ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22). He wants us to be a vital part of that company, for the day and hour when He shall "roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem" (Amos 1:2).
He wants us to be in the JESUS AND PAUL company, rather than in the "JESUS WHOM PAUL PREACHETH" company.
The world of evil spirits in heavenly places... THEY KNOW THE DIFFERENCE, whether we do or not.
Satan does not fear our humanly devised schemes for evangelism, our programs that are organized to bring in the people and entertain them, nor our involvement in the political forum.
BUT HE TREMBLES WHEN HE SEES A PEOPLE BEGINNING TO WALK IN THE WAY OF THE CROSS!
Let us make sure of our identity. Our identity with any race or culture or religious system will profit us nothing. But let us make sure we are of the number that are born in Zion, and registered in Zion, and walking in Zion, and are clothed upon with the Armor of Zion.
"Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?"
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