By George H. Warnock
Abraham, the Father of All who Believe
We introduced Abraham as a man who had enduring faith. But we must go back to his early experiences with God, to demonstrate how great his faith was in the sight of God. When God told him to leave the country of his birth, and Go, there is no indication that he questioned God, or even asked Him where he was to go. He heard what God said, and obeyed "and he went out, not knowing whither he went" (Heb 11:8). God was preparing a vessel who would become known as 'the father of all those who believe' (see Rom 4:11; Gal 3:29). And so Abraham's faith must have been great in the sight of God. But the greatness of his faith was not determined by the mighty works he would perform, nor by great miracles that would cause men to stand in awe of what he had done. Rather, in God's sight his faith was determined by his obedience to do what God said, without asking the reason why. If people asked, Where are you going, Abraham? It appears you are going on a journey? - all he could say was, I don't know! Doesn't make sense, does it? But a walk of faith is not intended of the Lord to make sense. It takes faith to walk in obedience before the Lord. If you can show a miracle to confirm your faith, you will probably be held in high esteem by the people. But if there is no miracle to confirm what you are doing, you could be subject to a lot of criticism for doing something that does not make sense.
However, we have to be cautious in this matter of faith. We must emphasize that Abraham was walking in obedience to the word of God. Many will say, I'm just going to step out by faith, and do it! There is nothing you and I can do to generate faith, except to know His Word and walk in obedience to His will. Certainly this implies that we hear from God. Peter would not think of stepping out of the boat by faith, and going to meet Jesus -- not until he heard that clear word from Jesus - Come! There can be no faith, unless we are assured that we are walking in obedience to His will. Because "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom 10:17).
There is a vast amount of teaching around this matter of claiming the promises. If God said it, is that not enough? It was more important to Abraham to obey God, than to claim the promises. When God told him to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering - he didn't argue with God: "God you promised me that through Isaac all nations would be blessed." He obeyed God; he knew that if God said it, He would bring it to pass.
I know God's promises are available to faith, but let us be sure we are asking for things in His Name. Just saying in your prayer, "I ask this in Jesus' Name" - this alone is not enough. Asking in Jesus' Name can only be effective as we walk in obedience to His will. Then we know we have His sanction and approval in what we are doing. I know Jesus said, "If ye shall ask anything in My Name, I will do it" (Jn 14:14). If I go to someone with a message from the Prime Minister of Canada, and I say, I come to you with a message in the name of the Prime Minister -- I had better be very sure that the message is consistent with what the Prime Minister would say, if he went there himself. When Abraham sent his trusted servant to go to Haran and find a bride for Isaac, his servant went there in fear, and sought the Lord earnestly for guidance, that he might find the bride for Isaac that God had ordained. He went in the fear of God, and in the fear of his master Abraham.
And so our Lord defines the prayer of faith clearly when He says: "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).
I am not complicating the process of faith, to make it more difficult; I am clarifying it, to make it more real and meaningful. Many of God's people have been devastated when they stepped out on faith (or so they thought) - and then started to sink! God would spare us the devastation that people have gone through when they latch onto a certain promise, and then attempt to make it work "by faith." It is likely that someone taught them to step out on God's promises, when God may have wanted them to stay in the boat, until they heard that clear call from the Master: "Come!" When Peter heard that clear word, that was sufficient: he stepped out of the boat, and walked on the water by faith. And the water was firm as the dry land, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus.
Faith cometh by the Word of God, we are told. That is part of the process, yes. But first there must be a hearing ear. The complete scripture is this: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom 10:17). Jesus proclaimed to each of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." He didn't just say, Obey the Scriptures. Rather, He would reprove those who would read the scriptures, and not hear what God was saying.
I used to ponder this two-fold faculty we must have: not just an ear -- we must have "an ear to hear." This hardness of hearing is an ongoing process in the hearts of men, as they persistently turn a deaf ear to God. He is faithful to shine forth His light to "every man that cometh into the world" (Jn 1:9). No matter how dim that Light might seem to be, as one comes to the Light, there will be a working of God within him, to increase his perception to hear, and to see. And to such, the Word becomes a clear admonition from the heart of God:
"Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb 3:7,8). When any man or woman or child may hear a sound from the heart of God, this is their door of opportunity to say, like the boy Samuel of old: "Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth." Then faith springs up, and little by little God prepares our hearts, and begins to teach us His way.
As we walk in His way, God always reserves a 'Day of Appointment' for the Vision to speak. We are truly blessed when our hearts have been prepared, to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Abraham a Foreigner in His own Land
"By faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange (foreign) country." Do we understand this statement? Abraham went about in this land, and understood that it was the Land of Promise that God had given him; but in all of his travels throughout the Land he considered himself to be but a sojourner, a resident alien. He was a foreigner, rather than a citizen of the land. Other nomadic people were dwelling in the same land, but he would make no claim to the land for himself. Nor would he remind the other tribes that God had given all that land to him and to his seed. He dwelt there in the Land of Promise for about a hundred years, but always as a foreigner. He and his son, and grandson, would dwell "in tabernacles (in tents)." And why did He choose this way of life? "for he looked for a City which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (Heb 11:9,10).
Looking for a City
Abraham had no interest in settling down and establishing a little city of his own, like many other people did, as their families increased and multiplied. Cain built himself a city. Nimrod became the founder of four cities. And a man called Asshur from the same background, built two cities. Sad to say, some men in the Church have felt to build a city at various times in Church history. But the man Abraham, and those of his faith and vision, have continued to look for the true and enduring City, of which God is both Architect and Builder. In His wisdom He designs His City of Habitation; and by His wisdom He builds it according to His plan. The name of God's City is Zion, the Heavenly Jerusalem (see Heb 12:22), concerning which we will have more to say in this writing.
Abraham would be the pilgrim and stranger to the very end. Even in his old age, when he needed a sepulcher in which to bury Sarah, he insisted in his negotiations with the sons of Heth: "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight" (Gen 23:4). The sons of Heth were very cooperative, and told Abraham to take his pick of whatever sepulcher he wanted, at no cost. Thou art a mighty prince among us, they said, Take your choice -- it will not cost you anything. But Abraham insisted, I want the cave of Machpelah in Hebron -- but set your price, I will not take it without cost. They made the deal, in the presence of the sons of Heth; and with all these witnesses, Abraham became the owner of a graveyard, where he buried Sarah. And later when he died, they buried him in the same plot of ground.
I used to wonder why Abraham was so insistent on dwelling in tents as a foreigner; and yet wanted to purchase a burial place in the land. Then I realized he was making a statement while dwelling in the Land of Promise, for his heirs and progeny yet to be born. He was making a statement for their instruction in the days and centuries to come: 'I desire no inheritance in this Land; I want to be known as a foreigner in the land, and I want the sons of Heth to bear witness that this burial ground in Canaan is all that I possess. He wanted it to be known by his grandsons and granddaughters of succeeding generations, that all he wanted was a cemetery in Canaan.
Now the reason for this was revealed to the apostle Paul. It was because Abraham caught a glimpse of something greater, far greater than the Land of Canaan. He had a better inheritance in mind -- he was "looking for a City which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." I think if Isaac had written his father's epitaph, it could have read something like this:
Here lies Father Abraham in a graveyard of Hebron,
His life was plain, and he lived in tents,
With Isaac and Jacob the heirs of the Promise.
He lived as a Pilgrim that all might learn --
His grandsons and daughters yet to be born --
To fix their hopes on a Better Land.
He desired for them what he chose for himself:
A gravestone in Canaan is all he desired,
As he looked for a City with foundations strong,
Whose Builder and Maker is God.
Let us remember this, the Vision of God does not have to be fulfilled in our life-time, to make it valid. As we walk in the Life that is Eternal, we must also be aware that the Vision of God may be fulfilled in one of God's eternal days.
God had promised the Land to Abraham and his seed after him; and God was faithful to fulfill His promise. The story of the conquest of Canaan is told in the Book of Joshua. And when Joshua's victory was complete, God's promise to Abraham was amply fulfilled. This is what Joshua said to the people before he passed away:
"Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof" (Josh 23:14). But he also reminded them that they must never presume that God would continue to be with them unconditionally, if they turned away from Him. If they adopted the practices of the heathen that they were commanded to subdue - they would suffer for it: "They shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you" (Josh 23:13).
Let us always remember this principle in God's dealings with us. He gives us precious promises, and He is faithful to fulfill them. But He has greater things in mind which are far beyond the promises, and which we are not capable of understanding as yet. How much greater?: "Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Eph 3:20). God wants us to put to one side all these teachings of "How to Succeed" - in business or in ministry, or in ordinary daily living -- and embrace the Vision of God.
He wants us to know that these "exceeding great and precious promises" are intended to bring us out of the old nature, and into "the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4).
He wants us to know that in spite of the wonderful gifts He has given to the Church, there are yet greater things in store for those who pursue the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath 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, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God" (1 Cor 2:9,10). Then let us look for more grace to see more clearly, and to hear more clearly - the revelation of the Spirit concerning these hidden treasures in God. Surely we defeat God's purpose for our lives if we affirm that God hath revealed these mysteries unto us by His Spirit, and fail to give the Spirit of God His full dominion in our lives, that we might hear and see clearly "what the Spirit is saying to the churches."
Does God Change His Mind?
Let there be no presumption here by the people of Israel, or by those living in our great democratic nations. He tells us clearly in many places of the Word, that He will be with us, as long as we are with Him. If there is obedience to God, His Word shall stand. But when there is disobedience and rebellion, His covenant is abrogated for that nation, or that people. "If it do evil in My sight, that it obey not My voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them" (Jer 18:10).
Our so-called Christian nations had better understand these principles in God. I know God said He is a God that will not repent, because He changes not. "I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it" (see Jer 4:28). There are many other such scriptures as to God's Sovereign and unchanging purposes.
But the same Sovereign God who declares He will not repent, has told us that if there is repentance by the people whom He has appointed for judgment, then He will repent of the punishment that He declared upon them. If we change our wicked ways, the Sovereign Lord will, by His very nature of love and mercy and compassion, cancel the judgments that He said would come.
Moses understood that principle of God's justice. So did Jonah, and the other prophets. So did the king of Nineveh, who feared God greatly when Jonah had declared the city would perish in forty days. As His people walk in obedience, He will bless them. If they turn away from Him he will judge them.
God threatened to destroy the nation of Israel that Moses had brought forth out of bondage, saying to Moses: "Let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation." But Moses refused to "let God alone!" What a great opportunity for Moses to get rid of these rebellious people, and come to a place of glory for himself! But Moses was a true intercessor and mediator, and he called on God to Repent! I almost shudder every time I read that statement -- a mortal man telling God to repent!! He reminded God that He might get a lot of reproach from Egypt, if they heard that He had destroyed the people who came out of the bondage of Egypt. Are You going to give occasion to the Egyptians to destroy the reputation of Your great Name? The Egyptians were greatly amazed to see Your awesome works, and had great respect for our God. Are You going to give them occasion to say -- Israel's God is not as wonderful as we thought He was. He brought them out of Egypt, but was not able to bring them into the Land of Promise, so He destroyed them all in the mountains? Are You prepared to allow our enemies to bring reproach to Your great Name?
All through scripture we learn that this is consistent with the nature and the integrity and justice of our Mighty Sovereign God, who does not change His mind. He will forgive His people when they repent; and He will judge them, if they turn away from Him. Our Yahweh God declares: "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." Now let us hear what this great mediator said to God: " Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent! " And what happened? "And the LORD repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people" (see Ex 32:12-14).
The Children of Abraham Embrace his Vision
The apostle writing to the Hebrews reminds them that in succeeding generations after Abraham's time God had fulfilled the promises He had given to him:
"Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable" (Heb 11:12). In other words, the far-reaching promise that God had given Abraham back in Gen 15:5,6 had been fulfilled. And yet, in view of God's greater intention that He had in mind, the apostle was inspired to write:
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb 11:13). These descendants of Abraham "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth," just as their father Abraham had done. That indescribable vision that Abraham had, took hold of his seed -- so they too confessed that they were "strangers and pilgrims in the earth." Even David, the beloved Shepherd King of Israel, living in the land of Israel as King of both Israel and Judah, declared: "I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were" (Ps 39:12). Why would they say such things? The apostle tells us why: "For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country" (Heb 11:14).
And it is for the same reason that we say such things. We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and blessed with the Holy Spirit in our lives. God has revealed to us great things about His plan, His purpose - in conforming us to the image of His Son. We have sought to embrace His promises, and walk with Him. Even so, we cannot say we are completely satisfied.
Now we know why that inner longing and desire to apprehend more of God, lingers with us. God is not satisfied that we have come into that state of union with Him, that Jesus walked in, and that is why we are not satisfied. We are aware that our Great High Priest is interceding for us in the heavens, and we cannot be satisfied until God is satisfied. We cannot find our Rest in God, until God has found His Rest in us. And that is why we say such things, and write such things.
Abraham, a Far-sighted Visionary
Jesus and the apostles would speak of the seed of Abraham in a two-fold manner: as those whose ancestry traced back to Abraham; but more specifically as those who had a vital connection with Abraham, by faith. So also we speak of the Church, as a people who profess to believe in the Lord Jesus; yet knowing that there are many in the Church who know not the Lord Jesus. Let me illustrate this briefly:
Jesus said to "those Jews that believed on Him, If ye continue in My word then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Some of them resented the implication that they were in bondage, and said to Jesus: "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage ..."
Then Jesus said "I know that ye are Abraham's seed;" and after more confrontation with them He said: "Ye are of your father the Devil." So this is clear enough, though at first sight it may appear somewhat contradictory. They might trace their lineage to Abraham, and Jesus did not deny that; but His judgment was this: "Ye are of your father the Devil" (see Jn 8:30-44).
Likewise the apostle Paul would speak of Israel this way:
"My prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." He knew that they were lost without Christ, and he had a great burden for them. Then he said, "Hath God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." Then he goes on to explain that in the time of Israel's extreme apostasy, God always retained for Himself a true people who walked in God's ways. Elijah thought he was alone, until God said: "I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal."
God calls them by the name "Israel." Jesus recognized them all as "the seed of Abraham." He does not give Elijah, or any of his prophets, a clear definition of those who are truly His, and those who are not. If He did, men would be inclined to pluck the tares away from the wheat, but God says: Do not do that, because you might pull up some of the good wheat when you pull up the tares.
And so we speak of a Church, which is yet to be glorious and triumphant. But we know, and God knows, that many "Church people" know not our Lord Jesus Christ.
We recognize that there is a true Israel in the midst of the nation of Israel. And we know there is a true Church in the midst of the Church universal.
"The LORD sent a word unto Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel" (Isa 9:8).
The Word goes forth to all, and they that have an ear will "hear what the Spirit is saying." It is enough if we pay heed to what Paul said to Timothy, with assurance, as well as with admonition:
With assurance, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His."
And with this admonition, "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Tim 2:19).
"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom 11:5).
Better Things for the Sons of the Promise
God always goes beyond His promises in the hour when He fulfills them, and God is pleased with those who have faith to believe over and beyond the written promises of God. For how could our God find words in our language that would adequately portray what He has in mind for His people? Within the written promises He gave us, there are "unsearchable riches" that no scribe could describe (see Eph 3:8). Nevertheless God gives us His Spirit to search out the length and breadth, the height and depth of His infinite love and grace, that no man can understand, even when he experiences the reality of it.
Why do I not differentiate more between the Church, and Israel? Certainly there is a great difference if we are speaking in terms of the flesh. But when we speak after the Spirit, God has torn down that wall between us so that in New Creation Life we are all one in Christ Jesus. This is God's Vision for us, and it ought to be God's Vision for Israel.
Certainly that day of God's revelation to Israel will be much "better" than what Israel had under David -- or even under Solomon. And much better than what they are hoping for today. God has said: "I will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD" (Ezek 36:11). How much better? In many, many ways. We will just briefly mention some of these better things from the book of Hebrews:
The Son is a better administrator than Moses, or the angels.
Our Priest "after the order of Melchizedek" is a better High Priest than the priesthood of Aaron.
The Levitical order is interrupted with the death of the high priest, but our Priest after the order of Melchizedek liveth for ever.
His ministration brings us into a better hope.
He is made a surety of a better covenant;
Which is established upon better promises.
His ministry involves better sacrifices than those of the Old Covenant.
The New Covenant presents to His people "a better, and an enduring substance."
The sons of Abraham "desire a better country."
And those who suffer with Him, look forward to a " better resurrection."
If we truly love Israel, let us present to them a Better Hope, and a Living Messiah who now reigns on the Throne of David, with "all power in Heaven and in Earth" (see Acts 2:29-33).
He will yet subdue all His enemies under His feet, in the Day of His Power (see Ps 110).
A Living Hope for this Generation
We are not to become disturbed as we see this planet 'waxing old' like a worn-out garment. Certainly it is evident that we are there right now. In my early school days we were told that Planet Earth would probably burn out -- maybe in a million years. Now in my lifetime there is fear for the survival of life on this planet. We hear reports of the depletion of fish in our oceans, of the diminishing sources of clean water, of the pollution of our atmosphere, and the deterioration in the quality of our food. Those in high places of our governments and our societies are rightly fearful of the ravages of a world in the process of decay. I mean, right now. And even as I write these words, there is much fear that yet another nation, perhaps two - will be added to the list of nations who have Nuclear Capability. Let me assure you that our Lord Jesus is in total control.
"But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" -
And Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the Heavens are the works of Thy hands: they shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment. And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the Same, and thy years shall not fail" (see Heb 1:8-12).
Now there is no suggestion here that God will put a patch on Planet Earth so it will last another thousand years, to fit in with Millennial Theology. The Son, when He walked this earth, had no good thing to say about putting a patch on an old garment. He even tells us that the new patch will make the old garment worse than it was before (see Mark 2:21). Even many scientists are recognizing that there is no hope for the survival of Planet Earth. Consequently they are very intent on keeping the space program alive and well - always fearful that if they have too many disasters in space, it might be the end of their programs. Their hope is that one day they will discover a pristine planet something like Planet Earth used to be. I recall the excitement in the voice of an eminent scientist who was asked to comment on the achievement of the USA in landing a man on the Moon. In his discourse he said something like this: Now we can be sure that the human race will survive! He was exuberant and confident that nothing could hinder man from exploring the Universe! Believing, no doubt - as many scientists do, that man would one day discover another planet for men to inhabit!
As if God would give man a new planet to begin a new civilization, when he has hopelessly failed to manage this beautiful earth that He created for the first man, and gave him authority to rule over it all! God has declared through one of his prophets: "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD" (Obadiah 4).
The old garment of Planet Earth is getting pretty thin these days. And man in his great wisdom has enough nuclear warheads at his disposal right now to extinguish all life on Planet Earth -- if the Son on the Throne would let him do it. The Son who is Ruler over all may allow man to explode some of these deadly bombs, but we can be sure that He is in control, and He will let rebellious man go so far, and no farther.
The people who know their God are not to fear, in this hour, except to have a very deep and loving fear of God. How could we survive such burnings? But if we abide in Christ, and have the faith and the commitment of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we too will come forth out of the fire -- without even the smell of smoke on our garments. These men were just mortal men like the rest of us. We need have no fear of the fiery burnings that may come on Planet Earth, as long as the Son of God is there in the furnace, walking with us in the fire, even as He did with these faithful Hebrews!
The old garment of earth is to be drastically changed, not by the explosive devices of men, but by God's holy Fire.
"The world that then was (before the Flood), being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (2 Pet 3:6,7). And then for the millennial advocates who believe that somehow God will patch up this old garment to make it last for another thousand years -- the apostle gives this word of admonition:
"Be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (vs 8). And what was Peter looking for? A patched-up earth that is even now ragged and torn, and badly in need of a brand-new wardrobe?
"Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for New Heavens and a New Earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (vs 13).
Abraham looked for it. And so did Peter. And John saw it:
"And I John saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a Bride adorned for her Husband" (Rev 21:2).
Upon the gates of this Holy City are inscribed the "names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel" (Rev 21:12-14).
And upon the foundation of this Holy City are written "the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (see Rev 21:12-14).
What a marvellous union in the New Jerusalem, of the twelve tribes of Israel - with the Church of Christ, founded by the twelve apostles of the Lamb!
Moses, the Deliverer
God does not necessarily shelter His chosen ones in a safe haven somewhere, so the enemy will not find them. Often He will expose them in open daylight to the eyes of their enemies, who are ignorant of what God has in mind. So it was with Moses.
When Pharaoh feared that the people in Goshen were getting too numerous, and could become too powerful -- he issued a decree that all the male children born to the people of Israel in Goshen, were to be killed, or cast into the river. But God had an Appointment with one of those little babies in the years to come, and no murderous strategy devised by this powerful Pharaoh could defeat what God had in mind.
You know the story, how Moses was set afloat in a leak-proof little box made of bulrushes in the quiet backwaters of a river, among the reeds. It looked like a dangerous sort of strategy, but I am sure that mother Jochebed had clear guidance from the Lord. Moses' sister Miriam kept careful watch over the ark, a short distance away from the shore. You can be sure the family were praying that God would protect this very special little baby. Then as Miriam looked on, Pharaoh's daughter came to the bank of the river with her maidens, and saw this strange looking little box, and she sent her maidens to retrieve it. As the baby cried she had compassion on him. Miriam ran up to her, and saw her little brother in the arms of the princess, and offered to go and bring a nurse of the Hebrew women to look after this tiny three-month-old baby. The princess of Egypt then unknowingly gave this little baby into the hands of his mother to look after, and paid her wages for doing so. So little Moses was now under the protecting hand of the dictator of Egypt, and in due course his mother turned the young lad over to Pharaoh's daughter, and he grew up as Pharaoh's grandson and prince. But he was old enough to know that he was a Hebrew, and wise enough to keep it a secret.
How many young babies Pharaoh slew to maintain his power over Israel, we do not know. But the one baby that was chosen of God to deliver His people from their slavery, grew up as a beloved prince in Pharaoh's court!
No matter how clever and powerful the kings of this earth may be, they will never be able to put our Yahweh God to shame, nor His people who put their trust in Him.
Mother Jochebed's prayers prevailed, and in due time God put it in the heart of this young man, to identify himself with the Hebrew people, in their slavery: "Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb 11:25). He wanted to deliver his brethren so badly, but he had yet to learn God's ways. Because of a very serious error he made, in slaying a cruel Egyptian, he found himself in disgrace with Pharaoh, and fled for his life, and became a shepherd in the land of Midian. Gone were his dreams of delivering his brethren the Hebrews who dwelt in Goshen, suffering great pain and affliction at the hands of Pharaoh!
But this was still very much a part of God's Vision for him. God had reserved in His heart an Appointment with this chosen shepherd many years later, as he tended the sheep of his father-in-law on the plains of Midian.
God's appointments may tarry many years, but let us take courage: He must produce patience in His chosen ones, or they will not survive the heat of the battle, nor the adoration of their friends. Then one very ordinary day God spoke to Moses from a burning bush, and equipped him with power and authority to return to Egypt, and deliver the whole nation of Israel. And what were his weapons? He had but a staff in his hand, but by the Word of God who had called him, that stick in his hand became the Rod of God by which He smote Pharaoh and all his hosts, and brought His people out of Egypt, in one single night!
Joseph, the Dreamer
The dream Joseph had as a boy seemed quite far-out, and in telling his dream he got in wrong with all his brothers. Even his father wondered a little about it, and reproved him for having a dream like that! The Vision of God rarely makes sense, and God intends it to be that way, for His ways are far beyond our ways.
I have always considered the story of Joseph as one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. Also one of the most touching. The story illustrates how God brings eternal purposes into being, in the way He leads us, in ways that are usually very ordinary and very insignificant; but also sometimes in ways that are very traumatic, very devastating. If we recognize this we will consider our ways very seriously, in all that we do.
Jacob had loaded Joseph down with whatever he could carry, with food to take to his brothers who were looking after the flocks. He just happened to meet a man along the way that told him where his brothers had taken the flocks. When they saw Joseph they started to make plans to kill him. But with some opposition to that, and with the chance of making a little money, they sold him to Ishmaelites that were on their way to Egypt. So that way they got rid of him, and concocted a very wicked plan that would cause their father to believe that Joseph was torn of wild beasts. They produced positive evidence of that. Here is Joseph's beautiful coat that his father had made for him, torn and ragged and soaked in blood. (We wrote about all this in the book The Family of God, so this is enough at this point.)
But we must mention Joseph, for whom God had arranged an Appointment with Pharaoh, who was king over all the land of Egypt. We are emphasizing the unfolding of the intricate purposes of God, in one of His servants. From treachery, to prison house, to serious false accusations, to dungeons -- Joseph experienced all of it. But the Appointment with Pharaoh was in God's agenda from the beginning, and one morning it happened. He was released from the dungeon, and stood before Pharaoh. And when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams with wisdom and confidence, Pharaoh knew immediately that this man was filled with the wisdom of God, and he made Joseph to be the Chief Justice in the whole land of Egypt.
Just here, I would remind God's chosen ones, and especially the younger ones who are zealous for God. Do not try to get some kind of a 'plan' from God for your life, so you can start working on it! If you work on your plan, you will very likely spoil it! Or God may spoil it for you! You need only to know that God has a plan for your life, get to know His voice, do His will today and every day, and commit yourself into the hands of a loving God, and a very capable Predestinator. As you walk in God's will, you cannot miss God's intention for your life. And as you present yourself to Him a 'living sacrifice' -- you will learn to walk in His ways, and come to know His voice more clearly (see Rom 12:1,2).
John the Baptist, the Forerunner
Like Isaac's mother, and Joseph's mother, and Samuel's mother -- and many others in the Old Testament, John's mother was barren. Not only that, but she was far past the age of child-bearing, when an angel appeared to Zacharias, and declared that his wife Elisabeth would have a son. The angel told him that this son would minister in the Spirit and Power of Elijah "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk 1:17).
To God's people who love Him, yet are very much aware of their barren condition, let me say to you, Take courage. I believe this is a day when the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled:
"Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD" (Isa 54:1).
When youthful zeal fades away, and you are aware that, try as you may, you are not making any vital impact on nations, nor on your neighbour next door, yet you love God and desire to bring glory to His Name -- Take courage! God has special love for those who love Him, and do His will, but who feel they cannot produce any real evidence that God is pleased in what they are doing.
John the Baptist was born of such parents, and John himself waited long years in the wilderness of Judaea. Waiting for what? For God's timing, for God's Appointment. God had many things to set in place, before God would say to John, Go to My people with this Word!
John's real mission was to introduce the Messiah to Israel, in the waters of baptism; and to preach a gospel of Repentance by way of preparing their hearts for the King who was soon to be revealed. But the whole scenario for the introduction of his ministry in the earth, had to be carefully overshadowed by the Sovereign God. Luke who wrote about it saw fit to mention the rulership that prevailed in the Roman Empire, as well as in the Temple in Jerusalem, when John came on the scene. Tiberius was the Emperor of Rome, Pontius Pilate was Governor of Judaea, Herod was over Galilee -- and so forth. And in the Temple, Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. John was out there in the desert, waiting. Then one day, at the appointed time: "the Word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness, and he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Lk 3:2,3). He was the prophet that Malachi said would come in the Spirit of Elijah. But when people asked who he was, he said, "I am the Voice of one crying in the wilderness" (Jn 1:23).
How could John ever fit into the system of Annas and Caiaphas? How could he ever become one of their priests, even though he qualified as one born to Zacharias? No billboards appeared on any synagogue door announcing: Prophet John, the son of Zacharias, will be here all this week holding a Prophetic Seminar! Come! He may have a word from the Lord for you! But somehow the word got around, and the people would find out where he was preaching, and they would come to him. Certainly we are all aware that we need to hear from God. The people no doubt stood before John a little fearful of what he might say, but they were hungry for God; and John's voice was a call to repentance, and very simple:
"If you have two coats, one is enough. Give the other to someone who needs it."
"If you have more food than you need, share it with someone who is hungry."
All Palestine was under Roman occupation, and the Roman soldiers were there to keep the peace. They could be cruel at times, and they would grumble about their low wages. But there was a hunger in many of them, and they came to John for a word. And John would say:
"Do violence to no man; neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages."
Even Pharisees and Sadducees would come for baptism, and to hear what the Prophet might say. But John had a very hard word for them:
"O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matt 3:7-9). After a word like that, only the hungry heart would repent, and submit to the waters of baptism. How many of them walked away at this point, we do not know.
But the Appointment for John, above all others, was to introduce the One that was to come, in the waters of baptism. He waited for that; because God had given him a sign that would be revealed when he baptized the Son of God. It happened right there, at God's appointed time: "And, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from Heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt 3:16,17).
Wouldn't it be a thrilling ministry, to be a prophet? Not if you were one of God's prophets! Many of them were tortured, and slain. And John, the greatest of them all, was no exception. His head became a gift from a wicked Herod on his birthday, to a dancing party-girl! All because John was a preacher of righteousness, and not a smooth talker. He reproved Herod for his adulterous life, and paid for his reproof with his head.
The Lord was not accustomed to giving honour to great men. But I think because of the apparent futility of this reed 'shaken in the wind', the Lord was constrained to say this about John:
"For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist" (Lk 7:28). Bible students are taught to classify the prophets as major and minor. It appears they base their decision on how large a book they wrote. Isaiah was a major because he wrote a large book of many pages. Amos wrote a small book, so he was a minor. But Jesus classified John as the greatest of all prophets - and he didn't write any books.
Simeon, the Man who Lived to See the Messiah
We must mention a few things about Simeon and his Vision. We do not know how old he may have been, but we assume it was early in life that God said: Simeon, you will not die until you have seen the Messiah! It must have been very thrilling for him to receive a promise like that. I don't think he bragged about it, but I am sure he would tell his friends when the subject of the coming Messiah came up. God showed me, you know, that I am going to see Him in my lifetime. That's all we know about it. No mention of him seeing the Messiah growing into manhood, and ministering to people, or setting up His Messianic rule in the earth. It was a simple mandate: Simeon, you are going to live to see the Messiah in your lifetime! We can assume he carried this Vision for many years, and that he was old when it happened, because when he saw the Babe in His infancy, he asked the Lord to release him and let him depart, because He had seen the Messiah, and his purpose in life had been fulfilled.
The Vision of God is intended to strengthen us, give us hope, cause us to be patient, and not to be too consumed with earthly things that will pass away. But we must also know that the Vision will become our trial. We get tired of waiting. Our expectations may be prolonged beyond what we had hoped. But the Light in our pathway keeps us walking in the right way. Surely the Vision we have from God will be strong within us, until it is fulfilled. It need not grow dim with age if we know that "the path of the just is as the shining Light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov 4:18).
Surely He knows that a Vision from His heart to ours, might cause pride to spring up in our hearts. But He knows how to deal with that. The Vision tarries, and His servant who had the Vision is inclined to get weary of waiting. But God's intention is that He might prove, and test, and try in the fire -- those who have His Vision. And perhaps keep them waiting so long, that they may feel inclined to forget it all. But God waits - because He wants to bring forth patience, longsuffering, and endurance in our lives. It is good fruit that God is after. Simeon may have grown weary of waiting, but nevertheless he stood true to his God: "The same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Lk 2:25,26).
We have mentioned these things about Simeon to remind ourselves that if it is God's Vision we cherish, then we must learn to "walk in the Spirit," for we know not when, where, and how the Vision may come to pass. But we can be assured that if we "walk in the Spirit" we will not miss it.
Then one day it happened, because this man of God (whose name Simeon, means 'hearing') "came by the Spirit into the Temple." Was he expecting to see Messiah that day? We do not know, and perhaps he did not know. He just knew that he must go up to the Temple, because the Spirit was leading him there on this day.
"And when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law" -- Simeon saw Him! The One that he had looked for these many years. He saw Him! "Then took he Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word: For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel" (see Lk 2:27-32).
Simeon was there in the right place, at the right time, because he was walking in the Spirit; and therefore he could not miss God's Appointment. God would not let him miss it! You and I will not miss any of God's appointments if we walk in righteousness, and are living by faith, and enduring any manner of trial or testing that God may send our way. For He sends the trial and the test not only to prove our faith and confidence in God, but to burn away the dross from the gold and the silver by His refining fire.
Mary of Bethany, the Waster
We cannot pass by Mary of Bethany's Appointment with Jesus. It was just prior to His death which would happen in another week or so. "Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany -- and there they made Him a supper -- Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment" (see Jn 12:1-3).
God's Appointments are not advertised ahead of time. Only those whose hearts are prepared for His Appointments will understand. To the rest, the incident may become a source of argument, a cause for disapproval or for rejection. The disciples were indignant about this waste! So were all the others who sat at the table. But this was something between Jesus and Mary, and the Lord revealed that Mary had deliberately set aside this ointment for the burial of her Lord. "Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of My burying hath she kept this" (vs 7). It was not a sudden impulse she had, to come to the house where Jesus was, and perform a good and notable deed to her Lord. Having sat at the feet of Jesus so many times, listening intently to what He had to say, she understood that her Lord would suffer and die, but that He would rise again the third day. In her sensitivity to the will of God, she just knew that this was the appointed time to anoint Him for burial. The people at the table were shocked at such waste.
But who was the real waster? Mary who was clearly led of the Lord in this act of extravagance? Or the other women who went to the tomb on Resurrection Morning, expecting to anoint the dead body of Jesus, and He wasn't even there? Their preparations for Jesus' dead body were wasted. (The lesson: Don't waste your money to support some worthy cause when Jesus isn't even there.)
Mary's act was a proclamation of Jesus' victory over death, that would become a vital part of the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout all the world, and throughout all periods of time.
Why was Mary's act so important, I wonder? Because the ways of the Kingdom of God are totally different from the ways of the kingdoms of men. Men will anoint the dead. But Mary would anoint Him who was the Resurrection and the Life, even before He died. In what Mary did that day, she was showing forth the very essence of the Kingdom of God, not particularly to the handful of people gathered in Bethany that day, but to generations yet to come-
That it is a Kingdom where love rules, and where selfish interests are wasted on the ground.
That it is a Kingdom where men and women pour out their very lives in devotion to their Lord, with no expectation of reward in this life.
That it is a Kingdom of Giving, rather than a Kingdom of Getting.
That it is Giving, even when there is no hope of receiving anything in return.
That it is in Giving not only of our substance, our material things, but as one pouring out his very life as a drink offering unto God.
It is something like what Paul said to the Philippians: "Yea, and if I be offered (poured out as a drink offering) upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all" (Phil 2:17).
Concerning this waste of costly ointment Jesus made a statement in the presence of all who came to the dinner that day -- much to the dismay of the guests who sat at the table. And much to the perplexity of many Christians today who do not understand that a lost world stands in need of the fragrance of the Lord Jesus, and not just a well-prepared sermon. The fragrance of Christ will turn the hearts of men from the bitter ways of sin, to the love and mercy of the Lord Jesus -- confirming the word of the Gospel, with the manifest Presence of Jesus.
Jesus openly rebuked those who had rebuked Mary -- with these words:
"Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her" (Mark 14:9).
People in the world may not read our literature, or listen to the words of our Gospel; but they cannot avoid breathing the fragrance of the Lord Jesus when alabaster boxes are broken, and the fragrance of a life poured out for Jesus, fills the whole room -- or the whole city - or the whole country.
Our Lord Jesus - the Bondslave
I know that many of God's people are convinced that we present a Vision for His people that is too high. God knows that; and that is why our Lord Jesus came down to our level, and even below our level -- when He took upon Himself the form of a bondslave. Our Lord Jesus is our great Example, who came to earth as a Son revealing the glory of the Father. And as a Son of Man, He chose to walk before God in the obedience of a bondslave. He was manifested as the express image of the Father in human form. When the writer to the Hebrews introduced Him, he tells us that the Son was the ultimate expression of God's voice in the earth. In former times God spoke through prophets, and angels, and dreams, and many other ways. But now God "hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" (Heb 1:2). The literal Greek words are "in Son." I know this sounds awkward. But the apostle is emphasizing this final and ultimate Word of God, was manifested in Jesus. The Son was Himself that Word, the very Word of the Father, made flesh and dwelling among us. And so in the form of a Son of Man, He chose to take upon Himself the role of a bond-slave. He would not consider Himself as a king or a ruler, doing what He thought best. He would have an ear that was pierced, like the slave in the Old Testament who chose to be his master's slave the rest of his life (see Ex 21:5,6). And so Jesus is the One who fulfilled the prophecy of David:
"Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire;
Mine ears hast Thou opened:
Burnt offering and sin offering
Hast Thou not required.
Then said I, Lo, I come:
In the volume of the book
It is written of Me,
I delight to do Thy will, O My God"
And so we hear this Bond-slave saying words like these:
"The Son can do nothing of Himself" (Jn 5:19).
"I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (Jn 5:30).
"The Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him" (Jn 8:29).
O how different it is these days, when apostles and prophets and pastors can do so many wonderful things, if only they can persuade the people to stay with them, and get under their burden!
Our Lord Jesus is truly the Pattern Son -- the Son who chose to accept the role of a bondslave. His ear pierced, that He might hear the words of the Father clearly, and His heart motivated by the will of the Father.
At the Last Passover He took a basin of water and a towel, and began to wash the disciples' feet, as a lowly servant. He taught them, "He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve" (Lk 22:26). This is the role that was assumed by the Son of God as He walked in the earth.
He is the Pattern Son, and He taught His disciples how to become 'bond-slaves': "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of (from) Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt 11:29). Surely as we find ourselves in the yoke of Jesus, it ought to be easy to walk as Jesus walked. The father's Appointment for Him was every day, every moment.
Yet we cannot deny that the supreme Appointment for the Son, was to go to the Cross, in obedience to the Father's will. And this act of obedience was so precious in God's eyes, that Christ was awarded the highest prize that the Father could bestow upon anyone, in Heaven or in Earth.
How did He earn this great honour? By becoming the Great Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Pastor, Evangelist? By none of these, although He was all of these and more! It was because He "took upon Him the form of a servant (bond-servant), and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore (for this reason) God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name: that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:7-11).
The Church, the Body of Christ
O how this Church, that God ordained to be a wonder and glory in the earth, and in the heavens -- how weak she has become, by trusting in her strength, in her wisdom, in her riches, in her magnificence! And all of it is supposedly in an attempt to cause the nations to bow at the feet of Christ! But there is a Church in the midst of the Church, whose hearts long after God, and it is with these that He has reserved a day of Appointment. It will be a very individual Appointment with those who are "members of His body," as well as a corporate Appointment for the whole body.
God forbid that any one would think that his or her position in the Church, will somehow elevate them in the favour of God. For the body of Christ is composed of many members, and each member of that body is carefully designed by His creative power to function in union with all other members, and to partake equally with them in the Life that God has breathed into that body. For no man or devil or evil principality in the heavens will be able to hinder the mighty work that God continues to perform in the members of His body. His purpose is "that He might sanctify and cleanse it (the Church) with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:26,27).
Let us not hope for Heaven to bring this about. The Last Adam, "the Lord from Heaven" came to earth to do this cleansing, healing work in His people, by the blood of His Cross, and "with the washing of water by the Word." It is not by a sudden stroke of perfection when we enter the courts of Heaven. Jesus Himself, chosen to be the Captain of His people as they war against evil, came to earth as a man that God might make the Captain of their Salvation "perfect through sufferings" (Heb 2:10). It is by testing and trial and affliction while we walk in the midst of a cruel world, that we learn obedience and come to the stature of Christ.
David said that he was fearfully and wonderfully made. But he was speaking prophetically as he described the very intricate workings of God in the body of Christ. For this Church is to be an eternal wonder and glory unto God throughout all ages. David went on to say, "My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth" (Ps 139:14,15). Paul identifies this with our Lord Jesus. "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things)" (Eph 4:8-10). I believe David was speaking prophetically about this body of Christ that was "made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth." I understand very little about that, but we have much teaching concerning His ascension Glory, where He reigns with all power in Heaven and in Earth. And has sent forth His Spirit into our lives, imparting gifts to His people, and enduing them with power and anointing to bring forth this glorious Body of Christ. Then he declares that God's intention in setting these ministries in the body is that we "grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ" (Eph 4: 15). What marvellous grace, and what a living hope: "that we grow up into Christ!"
One Body . . and Members in Particular
Often there is a tendency to so exalt the truth of God's people being "one body" that we fail to recognize the very individual life that we are to live as a member of the family of God, or as a sheep in the flock of God. Coming into a body relationship must not interfere with that very personal relationship with Christ that He has ordained. A true body relationship among God's people, should enhance and strengthen one's personal walk with God, rather than making it to be subordinate to a corporate body relationship. Just a few scriptures to illustrate this truth:
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Cor 12:27).
A member in particular, just as my eye, my ear, my hand, my heart, is very distinct, and has a very special function, that benefits the whole body.
"Of one body." For this body is only healthy and complete when each individual member receives the care it needs from the rest of the body.
The sheep hear His voice: And He calleth His own sheep by name (see Jn 10:3-5). This is very individual and personal. The Shepherd knows each sheep by name, and each sheep knows his Shepherd, by name. Very often the sheep do not act as if they know the True Shepherd by name. How many of them have been taught and nurtured by true pastoral ministry, and really know the Shepherd, and walk with Him, and hear His voice when He calls their name? In too many cases this is not even considered necessary. The sheep hear the voice of their pastor, and they thank him for his counsel. But very often they know not the voice of the True Shepherd in their own walk with the Lord. Their pastor, their elder, their prophet, has become their mediator, instead of that One Mediator who reigns at the right hand of the Father. The sheep must individually know their Shepherd by Name, and follow Him!
The New Covenant, a Covenant of Glory
We have mentioned some of those glorious Appointments that men of old had with their God in Old Testament times; and often New Testament (Covenant) believers are inclined to feel that those visitations of God are not for us in the New Covenant. Is not the New Covenant better than the Old? And if God's people in the Old Covenant knew this very individual relationship with God, how much more should we in the New Covenant? The apostles continually remind us of the "better things" that we have in the New Covenant. And Paul goes so far as to say that the ultimate ministration of the Old Covenant was condemnation and death. "But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?" (2 Cor 3:7,8). Then to cap it off, he makes this very conclusive statement concerning the glory that was manifested in the Old Testament: "For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth" (vs 10).
Surely God has greater things, far greater things, for His New Covenant people, than He did for the Old.
I am confident that God will in these last days perform such wondrous things through His people (who seek Him and walk with Him), that they will be known as walking signs of the Mighty God they serve. Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah: "Behold I and the children which God hath given me" (Heb 2:13). The full quotation from Isaiah is this:
"Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion" (Isa 8:18). The people whom the Father gives to the Son, are "for signs and wonders." Their very lives, and the works they perform, will make them to become a sign and a wonder in the earth. Let us never entertain the thought: O well, I know God said He was going to have a glorious Church, without spot or blemish -- but it can't happen till we get to Heaven. Jesus came from Heaven to earth to bring this about. And the Father has given Him sons and daughters from the earth, born of the same Spirit by which Jesus was born. And they are predestinated "to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom 8:29). "Many brethren" in the Family of God, but each son and daughter a very distinct member of that Family - each son and daughter knowing the Voice of their Elder Brother, and following in His footsteps.
God's Appointments are in His Time
We must not fail to emphasize God's Timings. And we must know that God's timings are always related to eternal purposes. In union with the Father, Jesus not only did the Father's will, but He always moved in the Father's time. It wasn't a case of -- I'm the Prophet, so I'm going to prophesy. Or I'm the Teacher, so I'm going to travel far and wide and teach God's people. Jesus only did these things as He moved in the Spirit of the Father, and it was all according to God's eternal purpose and timing. He was always in God's place, doing God's will, in God's time. Therefore He could say to the people gathered in the Synagogue at Nazareth, that on that very day He was fulfilling scripture.
"And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down."
Then as they waited, perhaps for some word of exposition, "He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Lk 4:17-21). This is God's way of "doing the will of God," doing what God tells us to do, indeed. But also moving in the Spirit of Truth. And if we move in the Spirit, it will always be in God's time. Jesus would not be pressured by others. He would say to His brethren who urged Him to go down to the Feast: "My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready" (Jn 7:6).
It was especially grievous to Mary and Martha, whom He loved -- that He refused to go and heal their brother Lazarus when his life was ebbing away. When He got the news, "He abode two days still in the same place where He was" (Jn 11:6). He could have gone and healed Lazarus, or spoken the Word from a long distance, and healed him by a spoken Word. But He moved in the mind and in the will of the Father; and He must remain where He was till Lazarus was dead. All because God had a purpose in mind, and the Son always walked in the way of God's Appointment for Him.
Does it not seem strange how men have been able to turn this all around, and ordain pastors and teachers and apostles and prophets to be in a place of lordship, rather than in a role of servitude? Paul and many others were apostles, but Paul said, writing to the Romans: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ," and the word servant here means bondslave. Many of these great ministries today do not appear to be in the category of bondslaves, but rather as lords over the flock. And God's people do them a great injustice, by exalting them to a place of reverence and esteem in the House of God, rather than as servants ministering truth to the flock of God.