To men of foresight and understanding it is quite evident that the Church of Jesus Christ is about to enter into a new phase of life and truth in this the most critical hour of her long history. It seems, of course, as far as the vast majority of the people are concerned, that the sun is about to set upon a once glorious, and radiant, and triumphant Church. But to those whose eyes have been enlightened, and whose hearts have been enlarged to perceive what God is doing, it is not really the setting of the sun, but rather the rising of the sun, even the beginning of a new day. God's order, established right back in the book of beginnings, is first "evening" and then "morning." This must of necessity be so, because invariably in God's dealings with men the darker the hour of human frustration and peril, the brighter is the light of hope that radiates from the hearts of those who are the children of the light. It all depends on our viewpoint. By that we mean, it all depends upon the side of the pillar of fire from which we make our observation. If we are dwelling with the Egyptians as God's judgments begin to fall, then certainly there is darkness--a darkness that becomes so intense one can actually feel it, But if at that very moment we stand with the chosen people, with anticipation and hope of a great and complete and speedy deliverance, then our homes are full of light. Or if we stand with the hosts of Egypt as they pursue the covenant people of God, there is gross darkness. Yet on the other side of the blackness there is light--radiant and glorious--enlightening and cheering God's people as they face the future, and the prospect of a glorious inheritance, even though such a prospect might be intermingled with perplexities and questions concerning the ways and means of entering into it.
Why such a great contrast? Simply because the people are dwelling on different sides of the same cloud. The Church has an old chorus about "turning those ugly clouds about" But that really solves nothing. It is not a mere change of circumstances that we need. Turn the clouds about as often as you will and they continue to be clouds of darkness and apprehension and fear--as long as we are dwelling on man's side of the cloud, away from the sun. The only solution is in getting on the other side of the cloud, where the sun is in full view. What a beautiful sight it is when you climb into a plane on a cloudy day and soar into the atmosphere far above the clouds, and hasten forward to your destination in the clear blue sunny skies of the atmosphere above, with the clouds under your feet. I sometimes say to people by way of encouragement, "Keep looking down." For ours is a heavenly heritage, as it is also a heavenly walk. God "hath raised us up together, and made us sit together (with Him) in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6). As we take that position with Him in "the heavenlies" in Christ Jesus, then indeed there is no place in our thinking for defeat. By defeat we mean some kind of a partial victory, or a falling short in some sense of the word from that high and holy calling by which and unto which we have been called. We mean exactly that. If there is a falling short of that high-calling in any sense of the word, that means defeat. Why does the Church of Christ insist that a 90% or a 99% conquest of the inheritance would be more honoring to God than total victory? Why do we feel that if we retain just a small fraction of the old nature and the old life, with the rest given over to the judgment of the Cross, that God is truly glorified? The spirit of Saul prevails everywhere in the Church of Christ. He insisted he had fulfilled the commandment of the Lord and was quite proud of the fact. But "what then is this bleating of the sheep, and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?" asked the prophet. Well, of course, the prophet did say to destroy everything, but surely he did not mean exactly that. He could not have meant that all those "good" things of the Amalekites, and the king himself, should he slain. These he would bring as a sacrifice unto the Lord! In vain do we honor the Lord by bringing all the good of our old nature unto Him, and seek to keep our WILL on the throne. We feel we just simply must keep the king of Amalek alive in order to honor God, because man is a "free will moral agent." The fact is that man is in no sense "free" either as the seed of Adam or as the seed of Abraham. Jesus makes this abundantly clear. Only the Son can make one free, and this is the only true freedom that man can have (Jn. 8:32-36). By natural birth we are impelled by the desires or the WILL of the flesh and of the mind, which leads only to bondage; and we are energized by the spirit of disobedience (Eph. 2:2, 3). It is only by the grace of God that this wall of rebellion is broken down, and we are called forth into the light by His creative voice. One only knows true freedom when that last great stronghold of the old life is broken down, even the king of Amalek, the WILL--and the will of God takes its place. Then we may truly say, "I delight to do Thy will, O God"; and again, "My meat (my very food, my very life) is to do the will of Him that sent me, to finish His work" (Jn. 4:34).
In this writing we want to emphasize two things. First, that Truth is basically and fundamentally unchangeable, throughout all ages--and consequently in going on with the Lord there is a going back to the Genesis, back to the origin of Divine principles. And second, that in this process of restoration, there is a new unfolding of the Divine glory, and a new unveiling of the Divine purpose. There is a perfect balance here that we must maintain to keep us on the solid rock of the Word on the one hand, and to enable us to build up the temple of the Lord to perfection on the other.
This principle of restoration is amply illustrated in Nature, as it is also in the Scriptures. After all, we must expect this to be so, for Nature is but a manifestation of the Word of God. There was a time when men had no Word but the Word of Nature, and is was such a clear revelation of the mind and character of God that the apostle was able to say, "The 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). The heavenly bodies are for "lights" as well as "for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years" (Gen. 1:13). There are orbits of Truth. There are seasons of Truth. There are days of Truth. The moon orbits the earth, and the earth the sun-returning in their circuit month after month and year after year. It may even be that our galaxy orbits other celestial galaxies in a vast circuit too great to even calculate. So Truth is thrust forth from eternity, making a vast circuit in the heavens of His eternal purpose, and returns to eternity. Jesus said, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father" (Jn. 16:28). This seemed very clear to the disciples, insomuch that they finally felt they understood the mystery of the Son and of the Father. But they were still a long ways from a clear understanding of what He meant. Again, the apostle Paul said, "For of him, and through him, and (un)to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36).
This truth concerning the circle of Truth is beautifully illustrated in the book of Ecclesiastes. "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again" (Eccl. 1:4-7).
In this passage the wise man goes on to say, "There is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new?" Basically this is true. Fundamentally "the thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done..." To the man making his observation "under the sun" this is true. We wonder how this might apply in this day of great scientific and technological achievement, but actually all men have done is to uncover secrets of energy and power and knowledge that God placed there in the original creation. Even the explosion of the hydrogen bomb is but a miniature reproduction of that process of combustion which has been going on in the sun for centuries. We want to emphasize this truth right here, before we seek to understand some of the mysteries of unfolding revelation. There is a returning to first principles, to the original foundations--when first principles have been neglected and the former foundations destroyed. God is the Lord who changeth not: and Jesus Christ is the "same yesterday, and today, and for ever." He is the Truth; and therefore He is not subject to change, nor variableness, nor shadow of turning. In His relationship with men, He is ever seeking to bring us back to Himself. Back to first principles, back to the first love, back to original foundations, back to the first altar at Bethel, back to the rebuilding of the Temple of God, back to the old paths set forth in His Word. It is because men have forsaken the first principles of Truth that they have wandered about so long in the wilderness of their own choosing. Many have lost their way in the vain imaginings of their mind, while confidently believing that they are pressing on with God into new realms of Truth. When men begin to lay aside the Scriptures on the assumption that they have gone beyond what is written in the Word, they are destroying the very foundation upon which solid Christian character is built, and are throwing away the compass that alone can direct them to the haven of rest which they imagine they have already entered.
Now then, with the solid foundation of Scripture beneath our feet, we want to consider from the Word and from various illustrations in Nature, what God has to say about a new way of life for His people, a new realm in God that is available to His chosen ones. We want to hear what the Spirit would say to those who have hearing ears in this great hour. After the great outpouring of the Spirit of recent years, which had given so many of us a new vision and a new hope, had begun to dwindle away in the sands, there was general disappointment and perplexity as to what had actually happened, and why. It was about this time that the Lord quickened this passage of Scripture to me; and since then I have discovered that He had quickened the same passage to others who are going on with the Lord: "Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert" (Isa. 43:18, 19). Two things were made very real to me. That God did have a new realm of life that He was preparing to bring us into, and that we would see it. "Shall ye not know it?" God's people have always been so prone to accept the part for the whole, the earnest for the inheritance, the first fruits for the harvest. It seems that the wilderness experiences of life are so hot and dreary and wearisome that any little oasis in the desert we gladly claim as our very own, and feel that it must be the inheritance that we have been looking for. In the various seasons of Truth through which the Church has come, God has brought us into a small measure of the inheritance, little by little, In the closing days of Moses' ministry on the plains of Moab, he brought the children of Israel into a small portion of their inheritance, east of the Jordan. But the real measure of the inheritance was Canaan, west of the Jordan; and for the conquest of this realm, Moses must pass off the scene and make way for new leadership under Joshua.
Because we are so prone to accept the part for the whole, the Lord must come forth in mercy and dry up the springs of former blessing that we might move on with Him. He causes the figs to wither from the fig tree and the grapes from the vine--that we might go forth once more into the unknown path that leads eventually to the full heritage of Canaan fruitfulness and victory. In the meantime, there is "rejoicing in hope," as we become "patient in tribulation." And though we understand it not, even while we wait in patience for the land of fruitfulness, there is fruit coming to fulness in the barren ground of our "waiting." For even "patience" is a fruit of the Spirit--and not just a necessary evil that we are called upon to suffer. Therefore we can sing with the prophet, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation." With such a testimony faith is renewed and hope is born afresh, and we may continue: "The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places" (Hab. 3:17).
Many Christians have been boasting a lot about their position in the "heavenlies," the "high places" of Christ Jesus. But actually there has been very little thought of attaining to that realm, and living there in total conquest and appropriation, But it is there, yet to be possessed. God has given us "access by faith into this grace wherein we stand" (Rom. 5:2). In the midst of the drought and the barrenness, faith and confidence and hope spring forth anew, and there is the assurance: "He will make me to walk upon mine high places."
He Taketh Away The First
In the process of Christian development we are constantly entering transition periods wherein God would take us out of the old way and bring us into the new. And it is this interim period, this transition, this overlapping of the Divine dealings with us, that causes so much perplexity. We are loathe to relinquish the old till we have the new in our grasp. We would fain enter into new realms in God, but fear to step forth in full confidence and assurance into the unknown way. The new way must first of all be embraced by "faith," seemingly intangible faith, whereas the old appears to be very real and substantial. "No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new; for he saith, The old is better" (Luke 5:39). Therefore it is always in accord with Divine principle that "new wine must be put into new bottles"; and again, "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second" (Heb. 10:9). This is what seems to cause most of the trouble--when He begins to take away. We are not talking about the taking away of certain aspects of carnality, the old ways of the flesh. We mean, when He begins to take away something that was once a glory and a beauty to our lives or ministries, and that which may have been an evident source of blessing to others. We knew that this particular way was of God. We knew that God was moving mightily by His Spirit. What has happened? Often we have been asked this question concerning the great moving of the Spirit of recent years. Our only reply is: God is preparing to lead His people on to a greater fulness, a greater measure of the inheritance, a greater involvement in the realm of the Divine will, and therefore He must dry up the springs of former blessing in order to encourage us to move on afresh with Him. We may even feel that these circumstances are the result of some Satanic influence that would rob us of the blessing. Often we may not recognize that it is a Divine influence that would urge us to move forward to greater depths in God. Then one glorious day all becomes clear and plain to us, as we walk with God. Suddenly we realize that "all things" have been working together "for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose". For the first time we begin to appreciate the fact that any blessing or manifestation of the Spirit in our lives was but a foretaste, an earnest, of that which He has for us. Therefore, when He would remove this blessing, or cause it to recede from our lives, this removal of the blessing is in actual fact a PROMISE from the Lord of greater days ahead. It is not an indication of defeat or fruitlessness. There are special promises for the dry and the thirsty, for the weak and the helpless. If God has made you feel dry and empty, accept this condition as a promise from His Word: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground" (Isa. 44:3). Upon what kind of ground? "The dry ground." Then why do we resent the fact that we are so dry? Are you hungry? It is because God put that hunger there. And this know also, that God put that hunger there that He might satisfy that hunger. In fact, He had the provision for your need in preparation long before you had the hunger. Nor could you really be hungry, unless the provision was there first. This was so in the old creation, and it is so in the new creation. God made provision for man's need long before He made man. He made the fruit trees, the orchards, the vegetables, and all plant life for man's sustenance. Then He created man with a hunger and an appetite and a taste for the food that He had made. Let no man think for one moment that your hunger and your thirst after God originated in yourself, and that it sprang from some inherent longing within your own heart for God. God put it there, and if He put it there, He already had the provision for that hunger in His own heart of Divine provision. He is the great El Shaddai, the "breasted God"--the God of your daily provision. The hunger that is in your heart and mine is by Divine appointment and Divine creation, and can only be satisfied as we come unto Him, unto His own breast of Love and Truth and light, and there feast upon Himself.
Then again do we bemoan the fact that we are so weak? Especially if there was a time in our life when we felt we were strong? Then let us accept the fact that in making us "weak," He has given us a promise that we might embrace, as truly as though He had spoken audibly from Heaven, For He declares to those who are weak, "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength" (Isa. 40:29). He giveth power to whom? "To the FAINT..." Then why do we feel we need power rather than weakness? Herein lies a secret that we must all learn sooner or later. The strength and the power of human leadership in the Church has been most destructive to those who have exercised it, and has been one of the greatest hindrances of their going on with the Lord. We are not talking about the harm that may have been done to the saints in consequence of the iron hand of leadership. For as a matter of fact, it they have truly walked with God, it has done them no harm whatsoever, but only good. In this process they have been brought low, that God might exalt them in due time; and they have been crushed that God might bring forth the fragrance of His Spirit from this crushing. "Bread corn" must be bruised. The olive berry must be beaten, that the flow of the olive oil might bring blessing to others. The grapes likewise must know the pressure of the winepress in this hour of the harvesting of the vines. The truth is beautifully brought forth in a chorus, recently given to a sister in the Lord:
Would you be poured out as wine upon the altar to me? Would you be broken as bread to feed the hungry? Would you be so one with Me that I may do just as I will, To make you life, and light, and love--My Word fulfill?
That We May Know Him
What we want to stress in this article is the fact that the Lord, though directing us constantly back to basic and fundamental principles of the Word, does at one and the same time lead us forward and upward to a new and higher and ever increasing revelation of His glory. The Word is the same. The Truth is the same. But if it is indeed the Word of God and the Truth of God, then there is a continual unfolding of that Word and of that Truth in the lives of His people. That is why "theology" as such has really no place in Christian progress nor in Divine revelation. By "theology" we mean the "science about God." God never was interested in telling us about Himself. Nor was Jesus ever concerned in telling the disciples about the Father. He came rather to REVEAL THE FATHER and MAKE HIM KNOWN. Not facts about Him, but to MAKE HIM KNOWN. In seeking to know about Him we have confused our own minds and the minds of the people with reasonings and questionings as to His attributes, His characteristics, His manifestations. But God will have a people in this last day who come to KNOW HIM, and in knowing Him they will assuredly manifest HIM to others, by showing Him forth from their lives, declaring Him in words of fire, and radiating Him from their countenance. Then will humanity come to know Him, when they see Him revealed in His many sons, just as He once revealed Himself in His Only Begotten.