Tuesday, June 30, 2015

THE TRANSFIGURATION

THE TRANSFIGURATION
J. Alec Motyer

Readings: Exodus 34:29-35; Luke 9:28-36

IN a certain sense we enjoy a privilege which the Lord Jesus never had. We have our own copy of the Bible -- often a prized one -- whereas the Word of God was not printed in pocket form in His day, but was much too bulky and too expensive for most people. On the other hand, in the mystery of God becoming Man, He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52) and knew the Word of God with such accuracy and aptitude that as a child of twelve He surprised learned professors by His understanding and His answers. How magnificent was His knowledge of the Bible! He had a reply for every temptation drawn out of the Word of God. He took care to honour the Word of God when men came to Him with their questions. "What is written in the law? How readest thou?" He asked a lawyer, so displaying His confidence that it was all there in the Scriptures. When He spoke of always doing the things that pleased the Father, He was not mainly speaking of any intuition as to the will of God but of the will of God as stated in the written Scriptures of which the Lord Jesus was Master. Oh, if we would be like Jesus, let us covet to be like Him in our knowledge of the Word of God!!

The knowledge which the Lord Jesus had of the Word of God not only allowed Him to quote the Scriptures but enabled Him to use them in a special way. There were times when He reached back into the past, into Scriptural events which had happened earlier, and then reproduced those events in His own experience so that the Old Testament acted as a commentary upon Himself. It was this that He was doing when He took His three disciples up into the mountain for what we call His transfiguration. It would seem that He deliberately reached back into the past and plucked events out of the earlier Scriptures so that we might learn more of Himself.

IN the first of our two passages we read that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai "he did not know that the skin of his face shone by reason of his speaking with him" (Exodus 34:29). Bible translators try to help us by sorting that one out and some say that Moses' shining face was by reason of the Lord speaking with him and others that it was by reason of his speaking with the Lord. The Hebrew simply says, as we have read, "by reason of his speaking with him". Who was speaking with whom? I don't know; you don't know; nobody knows! Usually when a Scripture has two possible meanings, I like to suggest that we take them both. What we do know is that as the result of that mountain-top fellowship, something of the divine glory was imparted to Moses so that the skin of his face shone.

Jesus went up to enjoy mountain-top fellowship with the Father and while He was praying, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became white and dazzling. The glory that Moses had was on the skin of his face; it was imposed from the outside. It was a glory that rubbed off from God and rubbed on to Moses. The glory of Moses was partial; it touched his face only. The glory of Moses could be hidden; he wore a veil upon his face because the people were understandably scared by this sight of glory. The glory of Jesus, however, was the glory of His whole person; the glory of Jesus could not be hidden so that even His clothes became white and glistening. Out from His whole person there shone a radiance which penetrated even the opaque veil of His clothing. The lesson is plain and thrilling. It is that the glory of Jesus transcends any glory that preceded it. Here on earth those three disciples had an inkling of the surpassing glory of Jesus which fills the heavens.

The passage in the Gospel tells us that "Jesus took with him Peter and John and James" (Luke 9:28), while in the Old Testament we read: "Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel" (Exodus 24:9). Jesus went up with three named individuals; Moses went up with three named individuals; and they saw the God of Israel. As they went up that mountain did Christ's three disciples remember the incident in history and did their knowledge of the Bible prompt them to realise that Jesus was taking them up into the place of revelation? They knew that both Moses and [31/32] Elijah in their day had gone to the mountain top and held communion with God, so did their glimpse of the two heavenly visitors heighten their expectancy that they too were to have this supreme privilege?



Monday, June 29, 2015

THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST


T. AUSTIN SPARKS

THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

14. A TRAGIC AND INSTRUCTIVE EPISODE

Reading: 2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 13, 16.

IN tracing the history of the Ark of the Testimony we have been deeply impressed with its foreshadowing of the Testimony of Jesus in the New Testament. What a varied and instructive history that has been! In its journey from its formation to its ultimate and final rest in the House of God and glory, what deep and important lessons it has taught! As it sets forth the greatness and glory of the Lord Jesus the way of that Testimony has been seen to touch the life and history of God's people at every point in their pilgrimage. Both as positively for them when their life was in keeping with it, and as against them when it was otherwise. That is a first lesson of which we must take notice in our relationship with the "Lord of Glory". The Testimony of God in Jesus Christ is not just a doctrine, a system of truth, the fundamentals of the Christian faith; but a vital relationship with a living Person; a relationship jealously watched and checked by God the Holy Spirit Himself. The greatness and glory of Jesus Christ is something given to the custodianship of the Spirit of God, who has "the seven eyes" of perfect spiritual intelligence and discernment, and who never eventually overlooks any details which affect that Testimony, for good or evil. This is what we have been seeing in these messages thus far.

In this present message we come to an episode which contains some of the most vital, solemn, and instructive lessons for God's people personally, and His Church universally and locally. Upon the lessons of this incident hang -- for our own time -- issues as serious as was the case when it actually happened. This is indeed a very real example of the words: "The things which were written aforetime were written for our learning" (Romans 15:4).

Let us, then, come to the elements of this episode.

David, after his chequered history, discipline, troubles, in preparation for his anointed kingship, has at length been made king after the tragic death of Saul -- man's choice (note) -- and Saul's sons, including that fine man, Jonathan, who was caught between the two regimes, a victim of divided loyalties. Upon this confirmed anointing of David it is not long before his thoughts turn to the ark of God, which still lingered on its way to fulness and finality. He had the right idea as to what was due to that sacred figure. His motive was sincere and true. The question was how to realize the Divine intention. Let us pause there and look forward to what eventuated from the point of that question. We will return there presently.

There has been a tragedy. Disaster has overtaken the enterprise and venture. The ark is turned aside. One man closely associated with the proceedings is dead, smitten by the hand of God. The people are in consternation and confusion. David is dismayed and "angry". The whole process has been cut short, and for a long time the atmosphere of frustration hangs over everything. Arrest, death, abortion, frustration, suspense, disappointment, confusion -- these are the features which hang over the life of the people of God. They had, with one accord, "made David king", first in Hebron, and then in Jerusalem. That was a right and excellent thing, and the portents and potentialities of that were very great. It was as God meant it, and that was accompanied by much Divine favour. Hebron was "Fellowship". Jerusalem was "His Foundation of Peace". But now "the radiant morn has passed away, and spent too soon her golden store". Shadows have descended. Disintegration of hearts, and bewilderment of purpose have overtaken.

David is somewhere, first nursing his grievance and fretting his spirit; murmuring against the [13/14] Lord's non-co-operation with his good-intentioned purpose. The spirit of unity and responsibility, as symbolized by David, is disconcerted and paralysed. "And the time was long."

I wonder whether, thus far, we are able to discern corresponding features in the Church and the Testimony in our own times. Let us pause, think, and ask the question!

Now we return to David where we left him before the tragedy. He is thinking out a scheme, a plan, a programme, a method, a means, for advancing the Testimony. It ought to "get a move on". Something must be done to remove "stalemate". 'It has been in the house of that man Abinadab too long.' So, to action to release the Testimony! 'Let's have a committee. Let's confer with some men of substance.' 'I have an idea,' said David. 'Do you remember how the Philistines returned the ark after they had captured it, and God had so honoured it with judgments? Why, God was in that . They were quite respectful and made a perfectly new cart for the ark. They had common sense and used their own good judgment. That's an idea for our work for God !' So David instructed the carpenters and wheelwrights to make a new cart such as the Philistines made. Best wood, well put together, wheels well oiled, ornate coverings; some well-chosen beasts to be the power and volition; and when we get going, let Ahio go in front, and -- in case of difficulty -- let Uzza be nearby to steady things. Yes, man's idea, man's creation, organization, technique; man's leadership, man's custodianship, man's enthusiasm! Very well. Off we go! The shouting and the singing and the dancing begin. The makebelieve and artificiality. There is something hollow in it all. But, isn't it all for God? Isn't the object and the end that we have what God wants? Surely that is the guarantee of prosperity and success! Well, was it? And is it?

All seems to go well for a time and everyone is enjoying the "New thing".

But, oh, why are there such things as "threshing floors" in the Bible? They have always been such testing places. They search for reality as against makebelieve, grain and chaff. They stand for the ultimate issue, what is of God and what is of man. At such a place David's oxen stumbled, the new cart rocked, the ark was imperilled, and -- you know the rest, for we have told it.

Here we return to David -- the spirit of responsibility.

Such a man as David could not remain indefinitely with a controversy with God. God is waiting for him to come out of his cul-de-sac. So David begins to run through the Bible which he had (which had been there all the time) and his eye is directed to:

"And thou shalt put the staves into the rings on the sides of the ark, to bear the ark withal" (Exodus 25:14).

"And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the furniture of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch the sanctuary, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting"(Numbers 4:5).

"But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonged unto them; they bare it upon their shoulders" (Numbers 7:9).

As he looked he was startled, shocked, amazed, ashamed. Here was God's own prescription and ordination for the transit of the Ark of Testimony! As David read these Scriptures he must have called up his knowledge of the history lying behind God's unchanging order. The new cart faded from view, and in its place were some men who, through a most testing and searching history with God, had qualified for this so sacred ministry.

Although David did not have the prophecies of Malachi, God's speaking there (Malachi 2:4 ...) was retrospective to Exodus 32:26-29, and Numbers 25:12, 13. God's covenant with Levi and his sons, which governed their service, and gave them responsibility in relation to His Testimony, was because they were proved and approvedmen. In New Testament terms they were 'spiritual' men, "approved of God, workmen needing not to be ashamed". Yes, approved of God, and of His people. Not chosen, voted for, appointed and given office by men! Men of spiritual measure, "pillars of the church". In Christianity one of the most sacred expressions of the Lord's Testimony is His Table. "The Table of the Lord" is characterized as most holy: dangerous -- like the ark -- to what is not wholly suitable to it, and most blessed to those rightly related. Surely it is here that Levitical service is to find its true expression. Those who serve at the Lord's Table ought to be true "Levites" in the sense that they have -- under extended or intensive trial and proving -- shown to the Lord and His people that they are men of spiritual measure and quality! With reference to "overseers" Paul said: "Not a novice." "Novice" means "one newly planted". Surely this ought to apply to so sacred a function as serving at the Lord's Table! To put an untried and unproved 'novice' into such ministry is to put him into a false position, and even a dangerous one, and also making the church and its elders [14/15] very responsible. Levites may not now be an ecclesiastical class or a ritualistic "Order", but the law of spiritual approvedness and quality born of experience surely holds good for every ministry in the Church!

No, not a "new cart"! Not a man-conceived technique! Not -- with the best of intentions and motives -- man's arrangement! It is possible for man to get too close to the Lord's Testimony with his own hand , like Uzza, and consequently find himself out of the living fulness of the Divine goings and purpose. He may even be responsible for arrested, retarded, and confused conditions in the work of God. To put a hand on something that is of God as to purpose is surely -- sooner or later -- to meet God in stern disapproval, and to forfeit His "Well done".

Of the various instructive things which arise so evidently from this episode, not by any means the least is the solemn government of the Word of God. David's disastrous course was due to his overlooking, ignoring, and consequently violating the clear Word of the Lord. His act -- if unintentionally -- implied superiority to the Scriptures. This is always dangerous! It is particularly incumbent upon any who are in a position of responsibility to familiarize themselves with God's Word in relation to any course of action in which they may be involved.

We have written the above out of very long and wide experience in the Lord's work, and we are sure that to give serious consideration to the Bible's teaching in this episode would be to have the explanation of much tragedy, would be a strong warning and corrective, and see the Lord's Testimony freed to proceed.

Thank God, David recovered himself and had a happier end. This we shall see in our next message.

(To be continued)
----------------

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Peculiar Vessel







      "FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS"

      1 Samuel 1.

      The state of things today is very similar to that which existed at the beginning of the first book of Samuel. Three things in particular seem to stand out there as features of those days.

      The first was a formality in the things of God through being pursued in the energy of the flesh; resulting in mixture and spiritual adultery, and spiritual weakness and ineffectiveness.

      Another feature was the absence of spiritual revelation and perception - "There was no open vision". The "Spirit of wisdom and revelation" was inoperative amongst priests and people. Spiritual intelligence and apprehension was a minus quantity.

      The third thing was the constant menace of the Philistines, which eventually issued in the departure of the glory from Israel and the absence of the testimony of the Sovereignty from the midst of the people of God. When we remember that the Philistines always represent the intrusion of the natural man ('uncircumcised', Col. 2:11,12) into the things of the Spirit, it is a very significant feature.

      We leave it with those who have eyes to see to judge whether there is any similarity between then and now. What we have on our hearts is to note the method by which the Lord reacts to this situation.

      The two things, then, which immediately come out are, firstly, that the Lord is not satisfied to have it so, yet He does not abandon the situation. Rather does He begin in a secret way to secure the instrument for recovery. The second thing is that there has to be a very deep and peculiar travail in the bringing forth of that instrument. Samuel represents such an instrument, and Hannah represents the travail which produces it.

      What is clear in this first chapter is that this will not come about in the natural course of things. The USUAL way will not produce it. Indeed, it is declared that there was a deliberate act of God against that course (verse 6). Hannah's state was the Lord's doing. In other realms and for less important purposes - or shall we say, for more general purposes - the usual method may be followed. Samuel was not an after-thought. He was foreknown and foreordained and yet humanly he was an impossibility. Why had the Lord so acted in this matter? How do you relate and reconcile the two things, that Samuel was determined and yet made humanly impossible by the act of God? The first part of the answer is that the bringing of this instrument into being was to be by a fellowship in the Divine travail in relation to the testimony.

      Hannah went through unusual and uncommon soul-agony in the matter. She is here represented as "in bitterness of soul" and she "wept sore" (verse 10). It was not just simply a personal interest or a selfish end in view. When at length Samuel was given she placed him at the disposal of the Lord as soon as she possibly could. 

Concerning Isaac it says that "when the child was weaned", but in the case of Samuel it says of Hannah that "she weaned him", as though she was not letting things go on, but bringing about a separation unto the Lord as soon as possible. She was concerned for the Lord's interests in a specially eager way. This is impressive when we take into consideration the cost of this child, and therefore the peculiar endearment to herself.

      Let us get the full force of the truth here. A thing which is to serve the Lord in a specially vital way is not born easily, and is not brought into being without some unusual suffering and travail. There is much bitterness of soul to be gone through, and many tears.

      For a time, a drawn-out time, it appears that there will be nothing. The heartache and sorrow seem to remain long in the place of barrenness. And yet there can be no philosophical acceptance or fatalistic capitulation. The Lord is a factor and there is a "hoping against hope", a wistful looking toward "the God who raiseth the dead, and calleth the things that are not as though they were."

Not one of the least painful aspects of the suffering is the taunting of Peninnah (verse 6). Now Peninnah was of the same household and a co-wife with Hannah. She was not a stranger or a foreigner. It was as such that she "provoked sorely to make her fret". Peninnah had plenty of children, there was none of this (divinely appointed) human impossibility. Things were more or less simple and easy with her.

      So it is, when the Lord determines to secure for Himself that vessel of peculiar purpose, and cuts off all the many activities, works, and occupations which, while being in the same household of faith and in some relation to Himself, are largely by the energies of nature and the facility of man. When and where there are not those usual accompaniments and outworkings, those issues and results, the evidences and proofs; then there is criticism, taunting, the pointing of the finger, and grievous imputations. The very acts of Divine sovereignty are given a twist to mean just the opposite of God's thought. So one system of things taunts the other. Well, so be it! It ever was. It ever will be. But wait! Samuel did come, and one Samuel meant more to God than all the children of Peninnah put together. And yet it is not a matter of comparative values. Samuel was for an hour of peculiar need. The suffering in connection with his coming into life was so deep as to solemnize beyond the suspicion of pride or comparison. All questions of self-realisation, vindication, or satisfaction had been tested in the fire, and the refined issue was the glory of God.

      Samuel came, and, in the purpose that he served, the suffering and sorrow were made well worthwhile, and the wisdom of God's mysteriousness was established. God was justified and the channel used was satisfied. We can leave it there.

      When the Lord wants something for an hour of peculiar need, the methods have to be out of the ordinary. To those concerned He has to say, 'Others can, you cannot'.

      More and more deeply, we are entering into such an hour at this time. The general thing is not meeting the situation. The Lord must bring through something which will "come to the kingdom for such a time as THIS".

      Who will pay the price?


      First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Jul-Aug 1952, Vol 30-4
In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given, his writings are not copyrighted. Therefore, we ask if you choose to share them with others, please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of changes, free of charge and free of copyright.


The Overshadowing Personal Deliverance








      'I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.'
      Jeremiah 1:8


      God promised Jeremiah that He would deliver him personally - "Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey." That is all God promises His children. Wherever God sends us, He will guard our lives. Our personal property and possessions are a matter of indifference, we have to sit loosely to all those things; if we do not, there will be panic and heartbreak and distress. That is the inwardness of the overshadowing of personal deliverance.

      The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on Jesus Christ's errands, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, Do not be bothered with whether you are being justly dealt with or not. To look for justice is a sign of deflection from devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will begin to grouse and to indulge in the discontent of self-pity - Why should I be treated like this? If we are devoted to Jesus Christ we have nothing to do with what we meet, whether it is just or unjust. Jesus says - Go steadily on with what I have told you to do and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance. The most devout among us become atheistic in this connection; we do not believe God, we enthrone common sense and tack the name of God on to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts.


Practicing Your Position









      Colossians 3:5-11

      It is wonderful to realize that, as believers, we live by the power of Christ's resurrection life. As we do this, we are letting Christ live again in the sense that He is living out His life through us. This is what Paul desired for the Ephesian believers, for he prayed that they might know "what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:19,20). This ties in beautifully with Paul's statement in Colossians 1:27: "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

      It must be remembered that we are not robots, operated by push buttons. We are beings with the power of choice, and we must decide to apply these truths to ourselves. God wants us to surrender to Him as an act of faith. When we do this, God works on our behalf. This is not necessarily only a New Testament truth. The psalmist wrote: "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass" (Ps. 37:5). Philippians 2:12 and Galatians 5:16 also indicate that we are to work out the salvation that has been worked within us and that we are to live by means of the Spirit.

      Paul stressed to the believers in Colossae--and to us--that, as a result of their standing in Christ, they had a great responsibility to "seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1).

      "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).


"Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. v. 18)

  
Days of Heaven Upon Earth







      "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. v. 18)JULY.
     
      Some of the effects of being filled with the Spirit are:
     
      1 Holiness of heart and life. This is not the perfection of the human nature, but the holiness of the divine nature dwelling within.
     
      2 Fulness of joy so that the heart is constantly radiant. This does not depend on circumstances, but fills the spirit with holy laughter in the midst of the most trying surroundings.
     
      3 Fulness of wisdom, light and knowledge, causing us to see things as He sees them.
     
      4 An elevation, improvement and quickening of the mind by an ability to receive the fulfilment of the promise, "We have the mind of Christ."
     
      5 An equal quickening of the physical life. The body was made for the Holy Ghost, as well as the mind and soul.
     
      6 An ability to pray the prayer of the Holy Ghost. If He is in us there will be a strange accordance with God's working in the world around us. There is a divine harmony between the Spirit and Providence.


Because thou servedest not the Lord with joyfulness and with gladness. Deu 28:47-48

  
Our Daily Homily





      Because thou servedest not the Lord with joyfulness and with gladness. Deu 28:47-48
     
      We must serve. It is our nature. Our Lord never suggested a third course as an alternative to the service of God or mammon, as though it were possible to escape all service whatsoever. We either yield ourselves servants of righteousness unto holiness, or of iniquity unto iniquity; and to whom we yield ourselves servants to obey, his we are.
     
      It is a solemn thought: if we are not serving God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, we are serving things which are our worst enemies. A man has no worse foe than himself when he lives to serve his own whims and desires. These habits, and appetites, and fashions, are luxurious and pleasant just now; but their silken cords will become iron bands.
     
      On the other hand, if we would be secure from the service which hurts us, let us give ourselves to the Lord to serve Him with joyfulness and gladness. Do you ask the source of these? Remember, He will put gladness into thy heart; joy is the fruit of His Spirit. When thou art in a healthy state, joyfulness and gladness rise spontaneously in the soul, as music from song-birds. When the sacrifice begins, then will the song of the Lord begin.
     
      The heart finds the well-spring of perennial blessedness when it has yielded itself absolutely and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ. If He is Alpha and Omega; if our faith, however feebly, looks up to Him; if we press on to know Him, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship Of His sufferings; if we count all things but loss for the excellency of His knowledge - we may possess ourselves in peace amid the mysteries of life, and we shall have learned the blessed secret of serving the Lord "with joyfulness and with gladness of heart."