TREASURES OF TRUTH, VOLUME 10
PRAYER – PREPARATION AND PATIENCE
BY: GEORGE R. HAWTIN
THE SPIRIT MAKETH INTERCESSION
THE PREPARATIONS OF THE HEART
CONCERNING FASTING AND PRAYER
A PLACE BY ME
FAITH AND PATIENCE
THE ABIDING PRESENCE
THE SPIRIT MAKETH INTERCESSION
reat is the mystery of God and great is the mystery of man. Few there be among the earth’s millions who can say with truth, “I know myself, for the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it? Jer. 17:9. Man above all else is spirit. He is not body, soul, and spirit, but spirit, soul, and body. Thus in God’s word he is always defined. 1 Thess. 5:23. But man in the darkness of his understanding has chosen the visible things before the invisible, putting the last things first and the first things last. He has placed the visible and temporal ahead of the invisible and eternal, the passing before the permanent, the earthly clay in preference to the heavenly spirit. The perishing things that belong to time he has chosen to supersede the things that belong to the eternal. Into what deceit he has fallen.
ow pitiful is to read of the vain and silly notions advanced by men of science as they vainly hope to preserve man’s mortal flesh which, should it be preserved a thousand years, would at last fade away in obscurity and vanity, for all natural things are in the end vanity and vexation of spirit. Will man in his wicked desire to live without God become so base that he will indeed endeavor to deep freeze the human body, vainly hoping to restore it in some distant century when medical science has perfected a cure for the disease that was about to cause death in that particular person? Those who strive for such things have never learned that man is above all else a spirit being. They have never learned that the body is but an earthly dwelling place for the spirit, which is being prepared here in the lowest parts of the earth to bear the image of the eternal and to perform ministries of light and glory in a realm where pain never stalks and where death never prowls nor raises his ugly head. In those endless realms of light, whose fadeless flowers human eye hath not seen and whose deep songs of eternal joy human ear hath not heard, the spirit enters the realm of which it was created and the place in God where it can find rest.
If you, dear man of God, had a clearer vision of what you are, your whole life would take on an entirely different pattern. If you for even one day could forget the continual grinding and groveling enforced by the demands of the physical body to live and walk for that fleeting moment in the light of the eternal spirit which you are, you would never be the same man again. As long as you are not sure that you are above all else a spirit, there will be endless confusion in your life, for the spirit will ceaselessly reach out for communion with God while things of the natural realm, the realm of the body, will seek to crush all eternal desires and choke out all spiritual intercession. You will be driven as a slave by a taskmaster away from the realms of God back to your labor and travail to supply the demands of the corrupt human body of flesh. Never make the mistake of thinking you are the same today as you were before you partook of the divine nature. This wonderful partaking of God’s nature should have been the signal for you to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust to take your glorious flight into purer realms of the spirit. From now on you must know that you are basically and principally a spirit being. You are no longer to confuse your true self with the body of clay in which you dwell, which has held your spirit in bondage, and for which all your labor in time past has been spent. Your physical body is not the true you. The body without the spirit is dead, but the spirit without the body is much more alive than before. The body is the house in which the spirit dwells during its earthly pilgrimage. When these solemn truths are borne home to our minds, we begin to adjust ourselves to the glory of a new life to live where God lives in the spirit.
It is not that the body shall not be a partaker of redemption, for in my flesh shall I see God; but it is the spirit that first partakes of life, then the body is quickened by the spirit that has become completely one with God. The first consideration of the believer is that his spirit should be born from above and it, being thus renewed, should have opportunity to reach beyond the restricting walls of the flesh to commune with God that he, like Christ, may become one spirit with the Father. It is unity with the Father that produces sons of God even as Jesus said, “I and My Father are one.” As it was with our blessed Lord, so also will it be for all believers who through the spirit reach out beyond the corrupting powers of the flesh and the feculent powers of the age in which we live that they might become one spirit of the Father. 1 Cor. 6:17
There is a spirit in man and that spirit is the true man and the true personality. The spirit can never rest satisfied until it rests in God. It ever seeks communion with God and longs with unutterable longing and unceasing desire for fellowship with the Most High. This should not seem strange, for God is the Father of spirits. Heb. 12:9. Therefore it is no wonder if the spirit is restless until it is one with Him.
The spirit that is born of God is renewed in the image of God and God sees it thus, though regrettably we seldom do. Our lack of understanding of our true position in God greatly impedes our spiritual progress, for while we should be growing in grace and growing in God, we seem to be putting forth a vain endeavor to grow into grace or grow into God. It is very simple for a tree to grow in a garden where it has been planted, but I see no way by which a tree can grow into a garden. Paul recognizes our position in grace when he says. “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
When the Philippian jailor came trembling and falling down upon his knees before Paul and Silas, crying, “What must I do to be saved”, the answer of the apostle was clear and distinct. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved.” Acts 16:30–31. To believe on Christ means more than to merely believe in Christ. There are many who believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Saviour of the world, who have never cast on Him their hope of eternity that they might be justified freely by His grace, cleansed by His blood, and purged and renewed by His Spirit. Even devils believe in Christ and tremble, but believe on Him they never do. Men do not need religion. They need Christ. They do not need to know doctrine. They need to know Him. Tradition can do nothing for them but cause them to walk in blindness, but Christ is the light of men and the light of the world, and all who follow Him will not walk in darkness but have the light of life. It is not psychology they need to still their troubled spirit. It is Christ. An hour a day spent waiting upon Him in the silence of their bed-chamber with His Word open before their eyes will do a thousand times more to still their troubled nerves and calm their troubled spirit than all the psychology that men can offer.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart.
Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”
“Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
The calmness and assurance that fills the heart of the man who knows that all things, absolutely all things, are in God’s hands can never be measured. Resting in the fathomless depths of eternal wisdom and leaning every moment on arms that are everlasting, he knows that “there shall no evil befall you nor any plague come nigh your dwelling.” Then can the inner man sing in the face of every calamity, “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside still waters.
He restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”
What greater comfort could ever be offered the believing heart than the blessed assurance given by David in Psalm 91? “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shall thou trust.”
Man with all his religion, his church membership, his preachers and priests, his bishops, cardinals, popes, and the like has not found God. What good, O man, will these things do if after a lifetime of trusting in them and looking to them for help you find yourself dying without knowing Christ? The fineness of temples and the beauty of ceremonial robes will not suffice in that hour. What difference will it make, O man, when thou art dying, whether on a bed or on cold earth thou art lying?
First believe. Come first to know Christ as the almighty and eternal Savior. Repent of sins and turn from the ways of all the earth. Renounce them all and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ that you may be saved, for, when this has been done, the miracle of the rebirth of the spirit takes place. You are an infant son of God. Henceforth the doors of heaven are open that you may go in and out and find pasture that you may grow in the grace you have so freely received, coming into mature stature and full sonship in Him.
There is not a religious system on earth that can bring you nearer to God. Call them churches if you will. They are not churches. They are whorish religious systems, a deep ditch and a narrow pit. Prov. 23:27. No system can bring you closer to God. Only Christ can do that. “I am the door”, said He. “By Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” John 10:9. Again He increased the clearness of this statement by saying, “I am the door of the sheep”. Verse 7 “All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers.” And so they are, for they rob men of communion with God, standing between the seeker and Christ. They are thieves because they are more interested in making man their disciple than that he should know and love Him above all else in the universe.
The reborn spirit is ever reaching out to God. It is ever seeking God’s face and God’s presence and is restless and dissatisfied until it finds rest in Him. The spirit longs to be in God’s image as a caged eagle longs to burst the restraining bars that it may rise into the celestial realm where it really belongs. Some years ago, while visiting a large zoo, I stopped beside a huge cage to watch the birds. The cage appeared to be at least one hundred feet in diameter and perhaps fifty feet in height. It was with great interest that I watched the score or more of varieties as they ran about picking up eatables thrown to them by the crowd. After admiring them with interest for some time, my eyes for no particular reason strayed upward to the top of the cage where to my surprise and delight sat a great eagle on the highest perch. Heedless of the squawking birds below and oblivious to the crowds of people he sat at the very summit, peering through the restraining bars and looking with unblinking eyes to realms above, longing to spread his mighty wings to roam the eerie regions where he belonged. How I wished I could climb up there and cut the bars to set him free! For eagles are types of God’s sons who long to burst the binding fetters of the natural to soar to purer realms far above the sordid and slavish demands of the physical body and the carnal mind.
Far too often we meet with good people who wander about from here to there, trying to find a congregation where they will be happy and satisfied. They look for what they think will be the ideal church. Such people are often known by their fellows as “church tramps” because they go back and forth like Noah’s dove and find no rest for the sole of their feet. But it is not the sole of their feet that needs rest. It is the soul within that is longing for communion with its creator. Misguided man understands not the longing of the spirit within. He does not know that the deep yearning that fills his breast must find its satisfaction in communion with Christ and not in fraternizing or chumming with other Christians. He does not know that the fellowship he seeks with people is often the thief that robs him of the fellowship with God for which his spirit craves. Learn then, O man of God, to fellowship with Christ, rejoicing in His Holy Spirit, communing with the Father, becoming one with Him in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, walking in His will and doing His bidding, being His sheep and knowing His voice and not the voice of strangers.
“Oh that I had wings like a dove!” said the psalmist, “for then would I fly away and be at rest.” Psa. 55:6. But where, pray, would he fly? Would he fly to some great congregation there to listen to the sermons of preachers who are interested in building up their little kingdom? I tell you, nay! He would fly away to the secret place of the Most High to abide under the shadow of the Almighty, to hear His voice and abide in His presence, for the spirit, being one essence with the Father, is truly happy in His presence alone.
The things of the Spirit of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God; but the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. Cf. 1 Cor 2:10, 11.1 am at a loss to know whether the spirit here refers to God’s Spirit or man’s spirit, but why should we not believe that both the Spirit of God and the reborn human spirit are active in their searching and longing for the great hidden mysteries of God? The spirit that is born of God is a partaker of God’s Spirit and is one spirit and one essence with the Father. It is not the well, trained human mind that comprehends the deep things of God, but the reborn spirit that leaps within at the revelation of the Lord.
There is a very great misunderstanding among God’s people today. Seldom do they ever realize or consider that the natural man is an enemy of God. The natural mind is completely blind to the things of God. It does not receive the things of God, neither can it know them. It can never be trained to know them. Great stress in our day is placed upon learning, but it is not education that reveals the mysteries of God. And, if you will bear with my boldness, I must declare that education without God is in reality great ignorance. The more of it we have the lower our morals sink and the more loose and ungodly the nation becomes. The corrupt religious moves in the earth today come forth from the minds of the highly educated as the unclean spirits like frogs came forth from the smoke of the pit. Rev. 16:13. The “God is dead” movement does not spring from the hearts of the unlearned and illiterate, but from the highest learning in the land, but learning, alas, in the natural realm where God can never be known. Indeed, their God is dead, for the God they imagine never lived.
The Babylon of religious confusion that permeates the whole world like leaven is the direct result of the activities of the carnal mind as it wrestles with spiritual problems that it can neither comprehend nor touch with one of its fingers. While the world cries, “Sirs, we would see Jesus,” the preacher often presents another Jesus whom we cannot receive, (2 Cor. 11:4), for the Jesus he preaches and the law he expounds are all too often the product of his natural mind and not the glory of a revelation.
The wonder of the ministry of the apostles was not their unexcelled learning, as it was easily seen that they were “unlearned and ignorant men”, but the thing that captivated the souls of the people was that “they had seen Jesus”. Acts 4:13 If you live in the natural realm, then all that emanates from you is natural. Your most polished sentences will shrink to the realm you are in. Though you preached one of Paul’s sermons, it would be without effect unless you lived where he lived in the Spirit. The natural mind weighs the spirit down with learning and heaviness, for much study is a weariness to the flesh, and you may be sure it is an even greater weariness to the spirit. But if you live in the Spirit, those who listen to you or read what you write are carried, momentarily at least, into the same realm where you live to behold with open vision the things that you behold, even as the servant of Elisha momentarily beheld the things that were always familiar to his master. 2 Kings. 6:17.
As there was a great gulf fixed between Abraham and Dives (Luke 16:25–26), so also there is a great gulf fixed between the natural and the spiritual realms. There is no bridge from the one to the other; and so it will remain until the things that were gain to us are counted loss for Christ and our new born spirits, like flowers bursting through the cold earth, reach into the pure and undefiled realms of the spirit where God abides and the natural mind never yet has entered.
It is the reborn spirit alone that reaches out to God. The spirit alone prays according to the mind and will of God. While the human understanding is completely fruitless, the spirit is rejoicing in the wonderful will of God, leaping across the impassable gulfs and impenetrable barriers to the bosom of the Father. So it was that the apostle said, “My spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” 1 Cor. 14:14. This is a secret of inestimable value in every intercession if we by God’s grace can learn the truth of it. It is not easy to explain how the spirit prays while the understanding is unfruitful. It must, I think, be experienced rather than explained. How many millions of God’s people have experienced that inward groaning as the spirit reached out to God! More than likely there were no words coming forth to express the longing felt by the spirit within, or perhaps there was some simple expression as “Oh, Lord!” or “Dear heavenly Father!” that was somehow expressing the deep but mighty and inexpressible longing of the spirit for communion with its Lord. The saint of God who thus groans out his unutterable longings to the Father would never be understood by the ordinary Christian whose prayers are often on his lips but seldom in his heart. Do not mistake the noisy pulpit prayer that so often is nothing more than part of the order of a service as being a prayer of the spirit. It is more often the prayer of John Doe than the prayer of the spirit. Long ago our Lord condemned the Pharisees for their public prayers, saying, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” Matt. 23:14. Much crass hypocrisy is often whitewashed over by loud, long, and what appears to be fervent prayer.
Consider now how great these two statements are: My spirit prayeth – but my understanding is unfruitful. There are two things definitely involved here, first the unfruitfulness and dearth of the natural understanding, and secondly, the effectual prayer of the Spirit, who is acquainted with the will and purpose of God. God is not interested in answering the multitude of requests that come forth from mere human desire couched in the form of prayer. God is interested only in the things that concern His will and His eternal purpose. Why should God be interested in satisfying human demands since the natural mind is His enemy, asking for and demanding a thousand things to gratify itself with no concern about God’s will at all?
For decades it has been taught that it is always God’s will to heal the body. But it is not always God’s will to heal the body. What benefit is there for the body to prosper and be in health if the soul must remain infirm and crippled, stifled by the demands of a physical body intent on satisfying its own lusts? “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” Third John 2 Verily, if it were always God’s will to heal the body, then you may be sure He would always do His will and heal, but the very fact that ninety-nine per cent or more of the people are not healed should scream the fact that it is not God’s will to heal under existing circumstances.
If God’s dear children would turn the searchlight within, they would see that the multitude of their spoken prayers are nothing more or less than the desires of their own hearts, which they, alas, imagine to be the will and plan of God. I have seen people almost beat their heads against the wall in their determination to pray a revival into their church, but no revival came. “Well,” you ask, “why did not God answer prayer?” The answer is simple. The people were praying for something that it was not God’s will to do. “But,” you reply, “was it not God’s will to revive His people? Was it not God’s will to save souls?” The answer to that is simple also. God always does the things that are His will. Therefore, had it been His will, He would have done it.
The thing that many fail to see is that the people who pray in this manner are very often more concerned about seeing their prayer answered than they are about God’s will and purpose. They are concerned that a revival should come, a revival after their own liking, that they might have a thriving church and a real spiritual boom. But the idea never enters their minds that God, having now called His elect, may now choose to scatter the flock as He did in Jerusalem long ago. Acts 8:1, 4
Oh, that men would heed the words of Jeremiah! The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? Jer. 17:9. So, you see, it is never safe to ask God for anything that proceeds from the natural mind, for the natural mind will hide its true ambitions behind a cloak of fervent prayer, availing itself of the subtle suffix, “We ask it in Jesus’ name,” or, “We ask it all according to Thy will.” But the natural mind cannot ask anything according to God’s will and it may as well not try. “When thou standest in the presence of a prince, let thy words be few. And put a knife to thy throat if thou be a man given to appetite.” Let this apply to our prayers in the presence of God.
Paul the apostle further demonstrates the unfruitfulness of our human understanding by saying, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought.” Rom. 8:26. Whether we wish to believe it or not, this is the naked truth, for man, whether he be a Christian or not, simply does not know what to pray for as he ought. He thinks he knows and he goes right ahead making all manner of requests according to his own will, but if he would stop his talking long enough to do some considering, he would see that his prayers are born, not of the will of God, but of his own wishing. Thus his wish is not only father to his thoughts, but father to his prayer as well. How often have you heard Christians dreamily say, “I wish the Lord would send us a revival.” “I wish the Lord would save my husband.” “I wish the Lord would heal my body.” “I wish the Lord would send us a good rain,” or some such thing. Then they will make request in the congregation desiring the people to pray that these wishes of theirs, which they call prayer requests, will be answered. Then when such requests go unanswered for years we wonder why the Lord did not hear us. Why should He hear us when the request is born, not of His spirit, but of the natural mind?
“I asked for life, and this is what He gave me.
My lot is hard; my tears flow like the rain. I asked for hours gay with sunshine spattered, But, lo, my waking hours are filled with pain.
How could I know that crushing brings forth fragrance like perfume from some crushed and bleeding rose? That in the process of my better making, God used the methods He approved and chose?
“As heaven is higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” There is far too much rushing into God’s presence with our boots on, far too much lifting up of unholy hands, far too much stepping where angels fear to tread, and far too little preparation of the heart in waiting for the spirit of God to put the yearnings of the Almighty in the spirit and on the lips of man.
Many years ago, when I was nineteen, a much older brother taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. “George,” he said, “Learn to kneel for hours before God without saying anything.” Then he added with simplicity, “I have found that to be a great blessing through life.” I must admit that, when I first heard this statement, it seemed like a fruitless and somewhat unnecessary waste of time; nevertheless, I began to practice it. When I did, I discovered some strange and remarkable things. First I found that it often took me an hour or more to get rid of the thousand human thoughts that crowded like unwanted guests into the parlor of my mind. I found that my heart was far more charged with earthly things than with heavenly things and far more filled with my own fertile ambition than with God’s will, but I also found that, as I waited like Mary at His blessed feet, He began to unfold to me the secrets that are hidden from natural men with natural minds, but which are disclosed to those who thus wait long in His presence to drink deeply of His Spirit. Now I shall testify that this silent waiting in His presence has been a blessing to me also throughout my life.
The mysteries of God are always hidden from the wise and the prudent, but are revealed to those who like innocent babes come into His presence. Oh, that men would wait upon the Lord! Oh, that men would cease from their constant requesting and everlasting demanding, taking time instead to wait upon the Lord, until He Jills the spiritual mind with the unutterable longings of God! Refuse, then, to trust your own desires. Refuse to approach God with your own requests. God is not interested in those who think they will be heard for their much speaking. Matt. 6:7. He is interested only in the things that concern His immutable will. Our blessed Lord taught us this lesson when in great agony He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, saying, “Oh My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt.” And may we all thank God that the cup did not pass from Him, but He drank it completely according to the Father’s will for the salvation of us all.
Let us now look at the other side of the question. My spirit prayeth. Having taught us that our understanding is unfruitful, God has not left His people bound hand and foot by the inability of the natural mind to pray according to the will of God, but He has given us freely of His Spirit. He has touched our spirit with the life of His own eternal Spirit and we have been reborn, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible by the word of God that liveth and abideth forever.
There is no way to measure the longing of the reborn human spirit after God. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” Psa. 42:1-3. David knew what it was to have lovers and friends and kinsmen stand afar off (Psa. 38:11) in complete indifference and lack of understanding while he cried in the agony of his spirit, “Lord, all my desire is before Thee, and my groaning is not hid from Thee. My heart panteth, my strength faileth me; as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.” Verses 9–10
When Paul said, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought”, he spoke of the natural mind of the Christian, and the natural mind simply does not know what the will of God is. Consequently, it cannot pray aright and its prayers, therefore, must go unanswered, for God is not trying to prove His power to anyone nor is He trying to please anyone. Rather, He would that we should know His will and walk according to His purposes. Then He will help us and that right early. For this reason, then, and in this connection Paul has written, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself (not itself) maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts (God) knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Rom. 8:26–27. There is enough truth in those two verses to hold our meditation for a lifetime, and there is enough truth to completely transform the prayer life of any saint of God from the poverty of unanswered human requests to the richness and fullness of the prayer of the spirit that is always answered.
“The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” The greatest infirmity of the whole human race is lack of knowledge, and the greatest infirmity of every Christian is his lack of knowledge and understanding concerning God’s will. Man is not only self-righteous. He is also self-willed. As the self-righteous are devoid of God’s righteousness, so the self-willed are devoid of God’s will. We reach the righteousness of God when we repent of our own righteousness and, believing on Jesus Christ, we receive the righteousness of God. In like manner, when we are delivered from the self-will of the natural mind, the Spirit comes to our aid and makes request to God according to God’s will. You have heard it said that God always answers prayer. But no! that is not the truth! God turns a deaf ear to the demands of the natural mind however loud they may be shouted or however often they may be repeated, but His ear is attentive to the prayer that rises from the spirit and from a heart that has been cleansed and made pure from human desires. All other prayer than this is idle fancy.
There is no way by which these truths can be explained by use of the English language or of any other language on earth. These are spiritual things and are therefore quite beyond the realm of human explanation or definition. Even the apostle Paul himself left off his explanations to dip richly into the realm of experience when he said, “The Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Rom. 8:27. In Weymouth’s translation we have these significant words: “The Spirit Himself pleads for us in yearnings that can find no words, and the searcher of hearts knows what the Spirit’s meaning is, because His intercessions for the saints are in harmony with God’s will.”
The people of God who have experienced the “groanings which cannot be uttered,” the sighings of the spirit that find no expression in human words, do not need my frail explanation, for they know by experience that unquenchable yearning within the human breast, the sighings of the inner man, the spirit, which can only be interpreted by the Lord who searcheth the hearts. Though such sighings are to the human onlooker mere nonsense, yet to the mind of God they are true spiritual worship and true prayer. It was of this kind of worship Jesus spoke when He said to the woman at the well, “The true worshipper must worship in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”
When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he left an open secret for all who long after God with unutterable longings. Would it not seem right to you, since certain longings are unutterable and beyond the limits of human tongues to be expressed, that God would in omnipotence bridge this impassable gulf by putting into the lips of men a supernatural tongue, a heavenly language, which could without let or hindrance freely make request according to even the unknown will and purpose of God? This very thing the Lord has done for those who will avail themselves of it. God has provided another tongue, unknown even to him that speaketh it, but fully known to God, for it, being the language of the spirit, is capable of bypassing the natural mind to freely speak the mysteries of God. Let us then take earnest heed to these few scriptures, which explain so well the things we have spoken of. “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God; for no man understandeth him; howbeit, in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries.” 1 Cor. 14:2. Then again: “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also.” 1 Cor. 14:14. All praying and singing in the spirit is a great edification to the spiritual man, a blessed uplift and an almost unbelievable building up of the inner man. Therefore he adds, “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth (buildeth up) himself: but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” 1 Cor. 14:4
When our blessed Lord Jesus Christ hung upon the cross, He uttered seven short significant cries, each one full of meaning and dwarfing human understanding as the sun outshines a candle, but none more meaningful than the cry, “I thirst.” Perhaps our first reaction will be like that of the men who filled a sponge with vinegar to press it to His lips, for indeed His physical thirst must have been unbelievably great because of the torture He endured. But when He had tasted the vinegar, He would not drink, for this cry had come forth from His spirit and, being borne upon the wings of God’s Spirit, it penetrated to every corner of heaven and the secret places of earth.
There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He was God manifest in the flesh. He was God and He was man. He was God-man. He who was in the form of God “thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Phil. 2:6, 8 Nothing less than a God-man could be a mediator between God and man. For this reason the sayings of Christ from His cross are the more significant. As God He said to the thief, “Today shall thou be with Me in paradise”, and as man He said to God, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And when He cried, “I thirst”, I think we will have to enlarge our understanding that we may stand where He stood at that moment and where He still stands to day. On the one hand this Son of Man was expressing the insatiable desire of man for communication with God, and on the other hand this Son of God was expressing the insatiable desire of God for communication and fellowship with man. Never in the story of all creation did words more eloquently express the unspeakable longings of the human spirit for communion with God than was expressed by those two agonizing words that fell from His parched lips, “I thirst.” And never in the annals of all heaven did God ever express so intense a desire for communion with man as He did when through His blessed mediator He cried, “I thirst.”
From the Garden of Eden where our Lord called, “Adam, where art thou?”, to the new Jerusalem where “the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’ ” our blessed Lord has been ever thirsting to bring man back to communion with Himself. This same thirst that is born of Him He hath also placed in the hearts of His people who, though they know not how to pray as they ought, have been empowered through the Spirit to make intercession with deep sighings and unutterable longings according to God’s divine will. Such thirsting on the part of God for man and such thirsting on the part of man for God cannot go long unrequited, but they will rejoice as one on that ground where mercy and truth are met together and righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Psa. 85:10.
“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of the waterspouts.” Psa. 42-7 A waterspout is a narrow, rapidly spinning funnel-shaped cloud of water, similar to a great whirlwind or tornado, occurring at sea. The whirlwind agitates the water into a cloud of spray, drawing the water up its vortex often to a height of several hundred feet and sometimes lasting half an hour or more before it disperses and collapses into the sea. Who can plumb the depths of the ocean or who can fathom the depths of the human spirit, much less the Spirit of God? In scripture water often represents people (Rev. 17:15), and wind is likened to the spirit (John 3:8). Waterspouts are caused by the action of the wind as the whirlwind draws the mighty deep of the ocean up into itself as the deep of the ocean calls to the deep of the sky. Nature cannot endure a vacuum but fills it immediately. There is an emptiness in the deep of the human spirit that only God can fill and there is an emptiness in the deep of God that only man can fill. Thus the deep of the reborn spirit is ever reaching out for God, and the deep of the Spirit of God is ever reaching out to man.
While yet my understanding remains unfruitful, my spirit prayeth, and He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, for He maketh intercession for the saints according to God’s will. Even now, while we meditate upon these wonders, the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, and not only they but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption (the sonship), to wit, (which means), the redemption of our bodies. Rom. 8:22-23
“Why, the sufferings of the present I deem not worth considering compared with the glory soon to be disclosed to us. All creation is yearning, longing to see the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creation was made subject to futility not of its own choice, but by the will of Him who so subjected it; yet with the hope that at last the creation itself would be set free from the thralldom of decay to enjoy the liberty that comes with the glory of the children of God.” Rom. 8:18-21. Weymouth
Never in the history of all the world was there a time when it was so necessary for saints to be in harmony with God. Never, not even in Noah’s day, was there greater carnality and wickedness, whether in existing forms of religion or in the world itself. With all man’s learning and with all his church-going there is an unspeakable dearth of knowledge of God. While millions throng to meetings to salve their consciences with a form of worship, Jesus Christ is left outside. Those who know God separate and apart from all else are in an unbelievable minority.
“When the Son of man cometh, will He find faith on the earth?” Yes, He will, but He will not find it in the great congregations or among the crowds. He will find it among those few who, leaving all others, cling only to Him. The hour is now here when “neither in Jerusalem nor in this mountain shall men worship the Father, but the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”
The time has come for men to wait on the Lord, and wait patiently for Him, lest coming suddenly He find us sleeping. It is by waiting long and alone in His presence that we come to know Him, and it is here in this secret pavilion that He fills our spiritual minds with His thoughts, His purposes, and His will. It is here that He empties the soul of all human desire, of appetite, avarice, and earthly ambition, and, though my understanding should for a time remain unfruitful, it is here that my spirit prayeth and maketh intercession according to God’s will.
Come in, come in, Oh Tide of Grace!
Fill every parched vacancy.
Flood over all; fill every space.
Come, Tide of Grace, from Calvary!
THE PREPARATIONS OF THE HEART
“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.” (Prov. 16:1)
In this chapter we will concern ourselves, not with the “answer of the tongue” as mentioned in the scripture above, but with four important things concerning the “preparations of the heart” to make it a fit vessel to receive truth. I have recently had the experience of beginning to write a message concerning a truth of great importance and feeling compelled to lay it aside for the time being because of the inability of the majority to receive the truth of it. This will not be the first time that truth has had to be withheld until the hearts of men were prepared even as a field is prepared and made ready to receive and nourish the living seed placed in its earthly womb. Well do we remember the occasion when our blessed Lord said to His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” John 16:12. And Paul likewise, having commenced to teach the Hebrew Christians concerning the excellent wonders of the priesthood of Melchisedec, was forced to cut short his teaching while he rebuked them soundly for the dullness of their minds and lack of spiritual understanding, saying, “Of whom (Melchizedek) we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” See Heb. 5:1-14
How unspeakably sad it is to find that in our day, two thousand years after the above rebuke was written and with the kingdom of God coming on apace, millions of Christians are still babes at the breast! Worse still, I fear, they are not even at the breast where they could receive the true milk of the word, but are on the bottle, receiving milk, which was never intended for spiritual growth. My heart sinks and my soul is filled with a sadness which is beyond expression when people who have been professing Christians for many years, often claiming the fullness of the Spirit, write to me demanding to know what I think about water baptism, what I teach about the Sabbath, what I think about Easter, why I do not write something about the way people dress, what I teach about the rapture of the church, where I stand on the communion, what I think about the gifts of the Spirit, and the laying on of hands! Honestly!! Did you never read Heb. 6:1–2?
Did you ever wonder what Jesus must have suffered in His Spirit when in the days of His earthly ministry He traveled through the land demonstrating the power and glory of that kingdom age which is yet to come, healing every imaginable disease, delivering men from the power of sin and Satan, demonstrating the mastery of the sons of God over the elements of sea and air, walking on water, miraculously feeding vast multitudes, speaking with the authority of the sons of God, and unfolding mysteries hidden from ages and dispensations, and then, right in the middle of that display of supernal glory, we are told, “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” Matt. 15:1–2. Such a childish, petty, peevish, irrelevant question! What a sinking feeling it must have given our Lord to find men who were leaders and teachers asking such asinine questions, casting away the key of knowledge, and blocking the pathway to the distant peaks of revelation by stumbling over such human tradition as the washing of pots and cups and hands! They did not care how much a poor man suffered the pain and inconvenience of a withered arm just so long as their childish tradition about the Sabbath was respected. It was perfectly alright for a lame man to lie forty years in misery at the pool of Bethesda, but he must not be healed nor carry his bed on the Sabbath day. A blind man could grope in darkness from his birth and they cared not a straw for that, but the Man who made him whole must certainly be of the devil because He healed him on the Sabbath day.
How I admire our wonderful Lord and Christ for walking rough shod over their worthless traditions and calling them hyprocrites, vipers, serpents, and liars for drawing nigh to God with their lips while their hearts were far removed from Him! Indeed, they were whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones, clean on the outside but vile and rotten and stinking within. I tell you, if Jesus were preaching in the church system today, Christians would still come demanding to know how He stood in relation to their doctrines, voiding the glory of the kingdom for the sake of their tradition, and making Him an offender for a word.
What does it matter what I think? What I think or what you think will change neither jot nor tittle of the truth. If men are guided by what I think, they will probably be wrong. The question to be decided is whether or not what I am saying is the truth. If it is, then let us walk in the glory of its light. Let us repent of the gross carnality that everywhere darkens our pathway that we may walk in the light of Him who dwelleth in the light, which no man can approach unto. 1 Tim. 6:16
Never was there written a more faithful word of truth than this: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them to us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” 1 Cor. 2:9–10. According to this scripture we must conclude that there is one way and only one way by which spiritual truth can be received and understood by the human heart, and that one way is by the illumination of the Holy Spirit of God. It is when He, the Spirit of truth, takes the things of God and shows them unto us that we see, understand, comprehend and enter into those truths hidden from every natural mind from the very foundation of the ages. Decide then in your heart immediately that the deep things of God cannot be learned in schools, colleges, or universities. They cannot be dug out of books of learning. They cannot even be received from sermons though Isaiah, Paul, or Jesus were to preach them to you. Truth must be revealed by the Spirit; otherwise it cannot, simply cannot, be received.
“Why do you speak in parables?” the disciples asked their Lord. “Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to them it is not given” was His revealing reply. How helpless, then, we are if the Holy Spirit is not present to open these hidden things to our minds!
What hinders revelation? “Whom shall He teach knowledge? and whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.” Isa. 28:9. This passage of scripture very forcefully teaches that true spiritual knowledge and true doctrine are never entrusted to men and women who subsist on spiritual milk. They are yet babies in spiritual things and no more capable of receiving the knowledge or doctrine of God than an infant of days is capable of understanding the arts and sciences of the natural world. According to Peter newborn babes are to desire “the sincere milk of the word“ (1 Pet. 2:2), and they need not be deprived of it, but according to Paul strong meat belongs to them who are of full age (Heb. 5:14), that is, Christians who are no longer “little children”, but developing “young men” and mature “fathers”. 1 John 2:12–13.
Now let us notice what class of people it is who are to be considered spiritual babies and let us also notice in particular who those Christians are who are capable of digesting nothing stronger than milk and who consequently are never able to see “the deep things of God.” What I now write will deeply wound many who read it, but it will be a blessed wounding, indeed, if thereby the eyes of their understanding are opened and repentance may be followed by the receiving of great spiritual truth and the receiving of spiritual truth followed by spiritual maturity.
Hear now what the inspired apostle says: “And I, brethern, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal.” 1 Cor. 3:1-3. There should be no difficulty for even the most sluggish and unspiritual mind to see that carnality is the curse that keeps Christians in spiritual infancy. It alone is capable of denying them that strong meat which alone can bring them to spiritual maturity.
Let us now investigate what particular carnality it is upon which Paul puts such forceful emphasis. He does not here speak of adultery, theft, gluttony, uncleanness, lasciviousness, or any such thing, but he fastens his attention upon that one carnality which is the root cause of all carnality, successfully robbing Christians of spiritual growth during all the ages, that carnality which has made spiritual dwarfs of prospective giants and hidden from their eyes the glory of those things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man. That carnality for which he rebuked the church at Corinth is the same wretched carnality that in our day curses the entire professing church system. It is the carnality of sectarianism and denominationalism. I think it is completely reasonable to believe that 1 Cor. 3:3–4 is speaking of the sectarian spirit and the entire sectarian system. When Paul said, “Whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?’, he was emphasizing the divisive tendency that inevitably follows wherever and whenever men choose to call themselves by some name whether it be Paul, Apollos, Cephas, Luther, Wesley, Knox, or Pentecostal, Apostolic, Baptist, or any one of a thousand other names that purport to describe some distinctive testimony. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Cor. 1:13
I repeat without the slightest hesitation or without fear of any successful contradiction that sectarianism in all its forms, and denominationalism in all its forms, is the carnality that exceeds all other forms of carnality. It is the root of the tree of carnality and from its bad and discordant root of bitterness all branches of carnality derive their food and subsist as a green bay tree. It is this most devilish form of carnality that stunts all spiritual growth and keeps Christians drinking the milk of infancy when they should long ago have become spiritual fathers. Every Christian must repent of it and turn from it with all his heart if spiritual growth is to be attained.
How often I hear the time, worn objection, “We need these denominations to keep evil out”. You lie, my friend! You do not keep evil out. Evil is rampant among you. It is God who is kept out and with Him the unfolding of His plan for the ages. You say we need these things so we will have a place for the five ministries to develop, but that statement is made only because people have failed to understand, first – what the true body of Christ is, and second – what a true ministry is. Surely you will agree that our true pattern, the Lord Jesus Christ, was an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher all in one as well as a worker of miracles, a healer and a speaker of wisdom, and all these ministries functioned perfectly outside the carnal conglomeration of man-made systems. He taught in the temple, raised the dead in the cemetery, by the highway, or in the bedroom, and proved His Sonship while walking the waves of Galilee. Seek not to defend and justify that which God has cursed and which in itself is the very root from which the confused and divided image of Babylon has sprung. What nonsense is it, which teaches that we need carnal institutions to promote spiritual ministries?
Let every one who has ears to hear stop and take earnest heed, because the Spirit of God now warns a carnal people, divided and held in infancy by the sectarian system, that, unless they repent of their division, mourn the carnality of their sectarian ways, and, forsaking all, go unto Him without the camp bearing His reproach, they are doomed to spend the remainder of their lives in spiritual infancy and in outer darkness insofar as the deep things of God are concerned
Not only has denominationalism and all forms of sectarianism been used of Satan to dwarf and blind the minds of Christians but the division which these wickedly uphold has also been the darkness which has blinded the eyes of sinners for whom Christ died. How can sinful men who see nothing but war and strife and division among Christians ever believe that Christ has given them peace? I exhort, therefore, that all men and all women do now repent of this wickedness, and, casting out the evil spirit of sectarianism from their hearts, flee unto Christ, who is head of that mystical body, the true church, which will reign with Him, undivided, in the ages of the ages yet to come. Amen.
The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned. While we are “at home” in the body, we are absent from the Lord; and I think you will agree with me that most of us are much more “at home” in the body than we are in the spirit. But you will also agree that the spirit is much more important than the body, because the spirit is one essence with God’s Spirit while the body is identical with the flesh. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Rom. 8:13. Even the statement, “The body without the spirit is dead”, James 2:26, should lead us to understand that the body itself has no life except what it derives from the spirit. Thus every sin of the flesh is an outrage against the spirit whence it derives its life. Paul taught that, “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead dwelleth in you, He that raised up Christ shall also quicken (make alive) your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Rom. 8:11
In the days of Noah men were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, which things concern the body and the physical realm only. In our day likewise, as Jesus said it would be, men are eating and drinking, marrying, divorcing, remarrying, and spending themselves into poverty in a vain effort to please and satisfy the flesh, which, of course, can never be done. All labor and effort in our day is for the body and not the spirit. Whether it be food and drink, clothes, shelter, comfort and speed of travel, dope, drugs, wine, women, song, perfume, or tobacco – name it all and you find that all things are either directly or indirectly concerned with the physical realm of the body, which is the flesh, the implacable enemy of the spirit. Even the religious gatherings and conventions of our day put great emphasis on their plush motels for accommodation, their good eating accommodations, and the beautiful buildings in which their meetings are held. How often we hear the deceptive expression, “food, fun, and fellowship”! The truth is that food and fun have no more in common with spiritual fellowship than oil has with water. They are iron mingled with clay. Each is the antithesis of the other. I tell you with solemn sincerity that, while you are thus at home in the body, you will find an absence from the Lord. There may be much frothy verbosity in preaching. There may be clapping of hands, singing of hymns, and shouting and praise, but what good are any of these things if you are the same tomorrow as you were yesterday?
Now God has provided a very simple method by which men can begin to become strangers to the body and at home with the Lord. You will find nothing popular or beautifully acceptable about the truth I now describe, but, if you will persevere in it and consider the message it teaches, you will find yourself growing in grace, growing in understanding, departing from sectarianism, and coming into harmony with the plan of the ages. God has ordained fasting and prayer as a means by which the interests of the physical body, which is the flesh, are greatly decreased while the interests of the spirit, so long neglected, are greatly increased. You will probably not be immediately aware of any spiritual progress during a time of fasting and prayer. In fact, you may feel much more dead and listless than at any other time in your life, but it is the flesh only that is growing weak. It is not the spirit; and I guarantee that, if your heart is honest and your motives are pure before God, a new understanding of the spiritual will begin to possess you. Things that were hidden, dark, and cloudy will begin to scintillate with the light of God. Truth long obscured by the carnal mind will awaken to become a part of you.
Men are forever talking about the sonship message, but, O my brother, when you have earnestly fasted and cast off the carnal mind, you find that sonship is something more than just another message. It is the relationship of a mature son to his Father in heaven. It is the adoption by which God places you as “a son” in the spiritual body of sons of which Christ Himself is the head. People talk about the kingdom, but so often their talk portrays a dreadful dearth of the spirit of the kingdom. They talk much about coming out of Babylon, yet they adhere to and advertise every putrid thing that belongs to her harlot system.
God has ordained fasting and prayer as a means of casting down the carnal mind and raising up the spiritual mind. Fasting closes the eyes to the natural realm, displaying its deadness and ugliness while opening the eyes to the glory of those heavenly realms. If you show me a man who never fasts, I will show you a man who never quite sees the fullness and import of the present truth. Yes, he may be able to talk well. He may put it over, so to speak; but his talk, though all unknown to him, always leaves a pitiful vacuum which need not be there.
Whenever the Spirit of God intends to emphasize the Importance of any truth, you will find that it is brought to the forefront over and over again by teaching, by prophecy, by type, by allegory, and in many other ways. Take, for instance, the importance of the blood of Christ, which was shed for the sins of the world, not merely to save us from the penalty of sin, but to save us from sin itself. Over and over, times without number, in sacrifice, in offering, in prophecy, in type, in anti-type, in allegory we have this scarlet thread running through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. So also it is with any truth that concerns God’s plan of the ages. You will find it line upon line and precept upon precept throughout the pages of the good Book until its many aspects shine out in one great revelation of Christ.
In view of the above I should think that fasting must be a matter of great importance. So great it is that we must conclude that it was vitally connected with the life and ministry of every man of God whether he be a Bible character or whether his ministry be recorded elsewhere. And should I not say further that, in this day of ours when above all other ages our god is our belly and our glory is in the things that should make us ashamed, Phil. 3:18–19, it is high time for us to take account of our own spiritual dearth and avail ourselves of that simple, lowly practice of fasting and prayer, which always determines the difference between those who would enter into the realm of the Spirit and those who would remain in the realm of the flesh. I would not make such a statement as this without thought and consideration. Fasting, though a very simple and valuable act, is undertaken by very, very few people simply because it is hard on the flesh, and “no man ever yet hated his own flesh”. Why is it that so many people manifest a hatred for their spirit by keeping it in bondage to that cruel taskmaster, the body that can promise it nothing but spiritual decrepitude and impoverishment?
Moses, the man of God, fasted forty days on two occasions, and, if I am not mistaken, those two occasions had no interval between them, so that he actually fasted for eighty days without eating or drinking. In Deut. 9:9 Moses, relating his experiences to the children of Israel, told them that he had been in the mount with the Lord for forty days and forty nights. “I neither did eat bread nor drink water,” he said. Upon descending from the mount, he found the people had corrupted themselves and had worshipped a golden calf, whereupon he took the two tables of stone and broke them to pieces before their eyes and fell down again before the Lord forty days and forty nights. “I did neither eat bread nor drink water,” he said again. See Deut. 9:17–18. There was a great deal of the sovereignty of God in this act because it is quite impossible for natural man to endure eighty days without drinking and in very few cases could it be accomplished without eating. But it is not this that we are trying to prove. The truth is that the most remarkable revelation ever given by God to man, at least up to that time, was accompanied by fasting from all bodily and physical necessity.
The natural man is completely incapable of receiving the things of the Spirit of God; therefore, the more the natural man with all his beastly natural cravings is put out of the way the more the spirit, which is made after God’s image and likeness, is capable of drawing nigh to God. Paul made the seemingly contradictory statement, “When I am weak, then am I strong.” To the natural mind such a statement as this is silly, but it is silly only to the natural mind. The spiritual man knows that of all the enemies that bar the way of spiritual attainment the body of flesh is by far the strongest and most persistent and demanding of them all. It is an absolute fact that, while the flesh with its cravings is strong, the spirit is helpless and very weak. On the other hand, when the power of the flesh is at a minimum, then the spirit is freed of its bondage and chains and flies away to its own habitat in the realm of God. God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. It is this that Paul meant when he said, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”
I will gain no friends by saying it, but the truth remains that in all human effort to accomplish something for the Lord there is a super-abundance of flesh. Where the flesh is strong human organization is great. Dependence is upon education, fine singing, fine speech, fine buildings, and above all else money is made the prime necessity. Well have they nicknamed it “the almighty dollar”. Carnal men love to display their pictures. They love to be called doctor, teacher, apostle, prophet, evangelist, man of the hour. The ever present glorying in spiritual gifts and ministries is a fleshly thing. Harsh words, you say? Yes, but too terribly true, nevertheless. What Christians need in this hour when darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people is not a manifestation of fleshly niceties, but fasting and repentance and prayer that there might be unity with the will of the eternal Father and oneness with the mind of Christ.
As we consider the value of fasting and prayer, our minds usually turn quickly to the account of Daniel the prophet. Daniel was a man dearly beloved in the sight of God. Whenever the Lord expresses His exceptional love for any man, we will always discover that His love is not favoritism, but rather it is the Father requiting the love He sees in the man’s own heart. God loves the whole world and everybody in it, but He especially loves those who love Him, Prov. 8:17, making them special objects of His correction and thus also of His favor. Daniel was greatly beloved, Dan. 9:23, because he cherished no interest of his own. God’s interest was his interest and God’s concern was his concern. The whole ambition of his life was knit together with the purpose of God, and besides that he had no ambition. Though he was the third ruler in the kingdom of Babylon – by necessity rather than by desire – his heart was not in Babylon but in Jerusalem, and it was with his window open toward Jerusalem that he kneeled three times a day in his chamber to pray and give thanks to God. Daniel 6:10.
The plans and purposes of God are forever hidden from the natural mind. Please mark that statement well. The natural mind is completely incapable of grasping eternal purpose. That is the reason for so much childish thought among Christians. Daniel was no more privileged than other man, nor was he more beloved than any other man who has a heart like his. Furthermore, he was no more capable of understanding the purpose of God for the ages than you or I. This fact is surely evident by his prayer in Dan. 12:8 where he states, “I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And He said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”
In the 9th chapter of Daniel we have a manifestation of the true spirit of fasting and prayer. Would you give special attention to the three prominent points that follow?
(1) The occasion of his seeking God with fasting and prayer arose from his lack of understanding of a prophecy given by the prophet Jeremiah. Dan. 9:1–2. His lack of understanding evidently troubled him greatly and caused him much concern. We should always give special attention to fasting and prayer when any great concern disturbs or troubles our hearts, for more than likely the concern we feel is a concern born of the Holy Spirit, and, if we will follow it faithfully by fasting and prayer, God will meet us with an answer and an assurance which is of Him. It is positively of no avail whatever to fast and pray in an endeavor to persuade God to give us something we personally desire. Our prayer and our fasting must always be in accord with God’s purpose for the ages, always remembering that the present is a most important part of the ages. God has a plan for now.
(2) Daniel set his face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. Notice: – Our seeking of God must not be casual, but with purpose. Daniel sought with prayer and supplication. Supplication denotes humble and earnest seeking and requesting special favor. See further how he used all means at his disposal – fasting, prayer, sackcloth and ashes – not to persuade or bribe God into giving an answer, but rather to separate himself from the uncrucified flesh, which hindered his approach to God, and to place his spirit in harmony with God’s will and purpose. Many times I have written and spoken my firm conviction that there is only one element in faith, and that one element is the will of God. He who concerns himself with the will of God will find no problem with faith.
(3) He made confession of sin and the committing of iniquity and of rebellion against the precepts and commandments of the Lord. Wherever the word iniquity is used in the Bible the true meaning is rebellion. There are many Christians who live without sinning but who continually live in iniquity (rebellion). God speaks to them about fasting, but they rebel and refuse to do it. That is iniquity. God speaks to them about prayer and the reading of the Word, but they won’t make the sacrifice. It is easier to read the newspaper, talk to friends, or watch TV. God speaks to them about tithing, but they won’t do it. They rebel against it and console themselves by speaking against it. That is iniquity. God rebukes them for their backbiting and evil speaking, but they won’t stop it. All this is iniquity because it is rebellion. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. 1 Sam. 15:23. Is it any wonder that this stubborn man, Saul, later turned to a witch to answer his problem! 1 Sam. 28:7-25. Notice Daniel’s confession how this truth is further emphasized. “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from Thy precepts and from Thy judgments.” Dan. 9:5. A verse-by-verse study of this whole passage (Dan. 9) will reveal much truth to the earnest seeker, and God will prepare his heart and reveal his need of cleansing to him.
The fast recorded here took place in the first year of king Darius (Dan. 9:1) and the results were beyond description, but these we must leave for the reader to search out for himself. In the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia (Dan. 10) Daniel again set aside three weeks for another special period of fasting before the Lord. During this fast he allowed himself certain foods, but stipulates that he ate no “pleasant bread” (no dainties) and he abstained from “flesh and wine”. Verse 3 Again because of limited space we must leave the remarkable results of this fast and the glory of the blessed revelation Daniel received for the reader to search out for himself in the remainder of the chapter.
I think we may safely say that all the prophets were men of fasting and prayer. David states that his knees were weak from fasting, Psa. 109:24, and that he humbled his soul with fasting. Psa. 35:13. Paul makes mention of his own fasting by the simple expression, “in fastings often”. 2 Cor. 11:27. Martin Luther in his longings for God fasted until sometimes he fainted. John Wesley and John Knox were men who spent almost countless days in fasting and prayer. Charles G. Finney found that, whenever his great spiritual power was ebbing, a few days of fasting would restore it.
I am sure it would be right to conclude that all the successful fasting and prayer accomplished though the ages concerned God’s plan for His present truth. There is always a present truth, and it is with the present truth that we should concern ourselves. In the days of Noah the present truth was that the whole world, because of its abounding wickedness, was to be destroyed by a flood of waters. It was with this purpose and this alone that Noah concerned himself, and in obedience to God he built an ark to the saving of his house. The present truth for Abraham was that God had chosen him to be the father of a nation by whom and through whom He would bless the whole earth. It was to this revelation that he was obedient in all things. The present truth for Moses concerned the deliverance and instruction of those same chosen people. They were his concern day and night, and for them he fasted and prayed. The present truth for Paul the apostle was that the dispensation of grace had been committed to him, and because of that trust he was in watchings with fasting and prayer, continually preaching and writing to fulfill the demands of the time then present. In Luther’s day the present truth was justification by faith, and to that all his efforts turned.
We should be very foolish people indeed should we allow ourselves to believe that the hour in which we live has no present truth. I am satisfied that no more important hour has ever dawned on the world’s horizon than this hour in which we now live. It is, however, an hour as far beyond the understanding of the natural mind as the flood of waters was beyond the understanding of the disobedient of Noah’s day. We simply cannot comprehend the message of these closing days of the age except it be by divine revelation. We may talk of Babylon all we wish, and think we have come out of her, but Babylon is a revelation. We may listen to sermons on sonship and imagine we have entered its blessedness, but these truths cannot be comprehended until the Lord God Himself breaks them open to the heart, enlightening the mind and giving understanding.
My dear brother and sister, I believe it is my duty before God to tell you that without fasting and prayer the present truth of sonship and union with Christ will never quite come alive to your spirit. You will always fall just short in understanding. While you preach that men should flee from Babylon, you yourself will yet embrace her harlot daughters. You will exult about the body of Christ as though it were a visible thing, but fail to know that for two thousand years that body has been rising in mystery completely outside the pale of human machinery, being perfected by ministries set of God and not made of man, to form a fixed abode, a mysterious house not made with hands for God Himself in the Spirit. Wake up, my sleeping brother! Tear the darkling veil from off your eyes! The body you are now trying to perfect is not the body of Christ, and the ministries you are desperately trying to establish are not the ministries which Christ has set. Oh that men would avail themselves of that mighty key to revelation available to every sincere heart, fasting and prayer!
It was Solomon who said, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.” Again he said, “When wisdom entereth into thy heart and knowledge is pleasant to thy soul, discretion shall preserve thee and understanding shall keep thee.” These are remarkable words of inspiration and truth. All who read them would do well to take time out to consider them carefully and prayerfully. There is nothing more frustrating and detrimental to spiritual growth than to walk in darkness and ignorance; but, if darkness and ignorance give place to understanding, then doubts, fears, misgivings, and frustration are all erased, and we walk in the light that shines from the face of the Lord.
How often during the journey of life circumstances arise that are beyond our understanding, bringing frustration, disappointment, and even anger! In our dilemma we reproach ourselves, we censor those who seem to be responsible for our failure, we accuse the devil, and we blame circumstances, but, when at last we learn that God’s hand was in our trial, then we understand. Hence, had our understanding been enlightened in the first place, we would have saved ourselves from the frustration and complaining that served only to befuddle our lives.
As I am writing these words, the three astronauts, Lovell, Haise, and Swigert, together with the control crew at Houston are desperately struggling with all the skill at their disposal to bring the crippled Apollo 13 back to earth. A few days ago millions of people felt a sympathy for a disappointed Thomas Mattingly whose years of training together with his ambition to take part in a great adventure were frustrated by the miserable prospect of German measles. But today I think we might congratulate him for his good fortune. If understanding can grip our spirits and open our eyes that we might see that “all things are of God”, 1 Cor. 11:12, then we will not only save ourselves much frustration and misgiving but will rejoice in the knowledge that, because “all things are of God”, it certainly follows that all things must be working together for good to those people who love God.
When we consider how God made promise to Abram not only that he would be the father of a nation but that he would be the father of many nations, that his seed would be as numberless as the sand of the sea and as countless as the stars of heaven, and that in his seed all nations would be blessed, dare we blame him if at times he grew a bit frustrated or disappointed as he saw the years pass by the score with no sign of fulfillment of the promise? But we read, “He staggered not”. Yet I think the only thing that could have kept him steadfast during those long, long years of waiting was a faith that rested on understanding, unaffected by frustrating and changing circumstances. If I know anything about people, then I am positive that Abraham must have had many well, meaning friends who chided him about his peculiar confidence and blessed him with many uncomplimentary remarks about his fanatical notions. No doubt they offered him much excellent advice as to how he should get back into the main stream of things. But here was one man who understood what the will of the Lord was. Permit me to say with all the emphasis born of many years of experience that he who understands what the will of the Lord is must certainly turn a deaf ear to all the free advice of well meaning friends and brokenhearted relatives who tearfully mourn, “What a blessing he could have been if he had only listened to our good advice.”
There is a wealth of information to be found in the words of David, “He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts to the children of Israel“. No man ever comes to an intimate relationship with God by watching His acts no matter how great they may be. It is a knowledge of the ways of God that brings us to mature faith and understanding. The children of Israel based their faith on the acts they saw God do. They saw the plagues desolate the land. They trembled at the judgment that overtook Pharaoh. They saw the waters divide and marveled at the pillar of fire and covering cloud. They drank the water that gushed from the rock; but, the moment these signs were absent, they whined and complained like spoiled children because their confidence was not in God and His purposes, but in acts and miracles that tickled and pleased their imaginations. Moses was not of this coil. His faith rested in the eternal purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will. To the children of Israel, if there were no “acts”, no miracles, no signs, no wonders, then God was not there. To Moses God was there, working the immutable purpose of the ages, acts or no acts, miracles or no miracles, healings or no healings, water or no water, manna or no manna.
The faith and simple trust that all things are of God and all things are working together for good to them that love the Lord is the faith that the Father is looking for in you and me. I am fully persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature is able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus the Lord. And not only are these things unable to separate us from the love of God, but all these things are ministering together and working together to mould us into the kind of sons God is demanding. They are all ministers of His to do His pleasure. Yea, they are among the all things working together for good to them who love God and who are the called according to His purpose.
If a man cannot see that the temptation of Satan in the life of Job was a necessity, then he has completely missed the point and failed to discern the value of temptation altogether. If we cannot see that the temptation of Adam and Eve was a necessary part of God’s plan, then I fear we have missed the point and failed to see the plan. The temptation of the Son of God in the wilderness was a necessity, and so also are temptation, trial, suffering, misunderstanding, disappointment, poverty and all else necessary in your life and mine. When we understand what the will of the Lord is, we can say blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love Him. James 1:12.
My heart’s desire is that all who read these truths may be filled with the conviction that God our Father is preparing a people to share the image of Christ and reign with Him. First we shall reign with Him in that age we call the millennium, which is the kingdom of God, when the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord. Second, we shall reign with Him in the dispensation of the fullness of times when all things will be gathered unto Him. Eph. 1:10. Then we will reign with Him in the ages of the ages when the whole universe becomes subject to the Father in heaven. 1 Cor. 15:25-28. If we imagine that our main ministry is now in this present age, we have accepted one of the greatest errors the system of Babylon was capable of teaching. We all should realize that, while we are given some opportunity to minister in this age, this age is principally a time of preparation for the true ministry to come. With this understanding we begin as true sons of God to lay hold on the hope set before us. Even our blessed Lord Jesus Christ lived with this hope in view. He knew that His main ministry lay in the ages to come, for thus it is written of Him: “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2. Why did He sit down at the right hand of the Father? The answer is that He sat down by the Father’s throne to take the reins of government, first, to reign by Himself over the mystical church; second, to reign with His brothers, the sons of God, over the kingdom of God; and third, to reign with the sons of God and the bride in the dispensation of the fullness of times. How clearly we see in this the ever increasing glory of His kingdom, and our understanding is enlightened as to the true meaning of this statement: “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” How marvelous are Thy works, O God Almighty, and Thy ways past finding out! Who hath known the mind of the Lord or who can instruct Him? For from Him everything comes, by Him everything exists, and in Him everything ends. Glory to Him unto the ages of the ages! Amen and amen!
Since, then, we have such marvelous hope pulsating in our breasts, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness? If this is the age of preparation, should we not prepare ourselves? Ought we not in this one thing to imitate our Lord, who for the joy set before Him endured all things? Let us avail ourselves of every means of grace, laying aside every weak and beggarly thing that binds us to this present age that we might partake fully of Him and share with Him in that abundant glory which is set before us. As for me, I shall gladly count all things but loss and utter trash, unworthy of the least notice that I may share with Him in that infinite glory and reign with Him unto the ages of the ages.
Hear now the wise instruction of our brother, Peter, for it is true that God gave to him the keys (plural) of the kingdom. “Rid yourselves, therefore,” said he, “of all ill-will and all deceitfulness, of insincerity and envy, and of all evil speaking. Thirst, like newly, born infants, for pure milk for the soul, that by it you may grow up to salvation; if you have had any taste of the goodness of the Lord. Come to Him, the living Stone, rejected indeed of men, but in God’s esteem chosen and valuable. And yourselves also like living stones be built up into a spiritual house, as a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it is contained in scripture, See, I am placing in Zion a cornerstone, chosen and valuable, and he whose faith rests on Him shall never be disappointed.” 1 Pet. 2:1-6. (Weymouth) “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God … I entreat you as strangers and foreigners to restrain the cravings of your lower natures which wage war upon the soul; to live honorable lives that God may be glorified; to submit for the Lord’s sake to the authority set up by man, (emperor or governors), for it is God’s will that by doing well you silence the ignorant talk of foolish persons. Servants, submit to your masters with respect, not only to the kind, but to the unreasonable. Married women, be submissive to your husbands. Married men, love your wives and live with them with a clear recognition that they are not as strong as you are, but, being heirs together of the grace of life, treat them with honor, that your prayers be not hindered. Be kind, harmonious, sympathetic, tender-hearted, lowly-minded, not requiting evil with evil, but blessing instead, because you have been called to be a blessing. He who wishes to enjoy life (the life of the ages) let him restrain his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful words. Let him turn away from all evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their supplication; but the face of the Lord is set against evil-doers.” See 1 Pet. 2:9-20 (Weymouth)
In the epistle to the Hebrews we have this simple and instructive statement: “Wherefore, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Heb. 12:1. Runners in a race always lay aside their garments so that the race may be run with the least possible impediment. The world’s best swimmers often shave off all the hair from their bodies so that their passage through the water will not be impeded. If men to win a corruptible crown lay aside every weight with every hindering thing and strain every well trained muscle and nerve to win, how much more then should their example teach us to lay aside all hindering weights that we for whom an incorruptible crown is being prepared may better run the race that is set before us. See, then, what wisdom Paul uses in this urgent exhortation: “Lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us.”
You will rightly conclude from this passage that weights and sins are not necessarily the same thing. Christians are forever impeding their spiritual progress with seemingly harmless weights. “What harm is there in it?” so often they ask. But they are weights none-the-less, so completely able to handicap their progress in the race of life that they will be instrumental in denying them a place in His body and in His throne. There is no sin in eating, but, if a runner over-indulges even in such a simple pleasure, he will not only lose the race, but possibly fall out long before the finish line. Those who indulge the flesh to the detriment of the spirit can do nothing but fail, because ours is a spiritual race.
While Peter is saying, “Lay aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and evil speakings,” 1 Pet. 2:1, Paul is exhorting, “Put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another”. Col. 3:8,9. Again in verse 5, “Mortify (kill) your earthly inclinations (Weymouth); fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection (sensual passion), evil concupiscence (unholy desire), and convetousness (greed), which is idolatry.”
We do not have space here to consider in detail any one of these weights and sins mentioned above, but it is time God’s people disassociated themselves from all forms of the sex craze of our day. Sex in all its inordinate manifestations was the chief offender in bringing about the flood in Noah’s day. Sex in every perverted form was responsible for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and sex – rampant, perverted, twisted, mingled, exposed, unabashed, and depraved – is hurling the present age into the fearful maelstrom of the great tribulation. Blessed is he who in this hour of filth and corruption watcheth and keepeth his garment spotless!
Paul, who said “put off” all these corrupt things that impede our progress, exhorted us to “put on” those things that would quicken our step and hasten our growth. “Put on” therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another …And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts (remembering that He is our peace) …Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly ...” Col. 3:12-16. He who feasts upon the living word sups with Christ, giving Him place to dwell richly in the heart. “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus… Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters…” Col. 3:17-22 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without. Col. 4:5. Let your speech be with grace. Verse 6 Continue in prayer and thanksgiving. Verse 2
Now “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Pet. 1:3-5. Seeing we have such a hope, we use great plainness of speech, and, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the image of Christ from one glory to another by the Spirit of the Lord. See 2 Cor. 3:18.
Let us, then, cast aside all hindering weights that tradition has heaped upon us and, delivering our feet from the snares that impede our progress to the distant peaks sublime, let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking only to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
CONCERNING FASTING AND PRAYER
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight;
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Never for any length of time has there been any peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors. The hatred between them does not arise from nationality nor national boundaries, but from the spiritual fact that Ishmael was born by the will of man through the operation of the flesh and Isaac was born by the will of God through the fulfillment of the promise. One is born through the scheming of man and is therefore after the flesh; the other is born after the promise of God and is therefore after the Spirit. These two nations are an allegory representing the flesh and the Spirit. Canaan, the land, represents the believer, that land of promise and of conflict which you are, a land in which the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, a land where these are contrary the one to the other so that you cannot do the things that you would. Gal. 5:17.
It was about the year 890 B.C. that war arose between Benhadad, king of Syria, and Jehoram, king of Israel. Jehoram was by no means a good king, for, though he had put away the images of Baal, he continued in the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. 2 Kings 3:1-3. During the course of the war Benhadad, king of Syria, was frustrated again and again because all his tactical maneuvers against Israel had failed. In his frustration he called his generals and chief advisors for council, and this is the story of what took place. “Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. And the man of God (Elisha) sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down. And the king of Israel sent to the place, which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not show me, which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words thou speakest in thy bedchamber. And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan. Therefore he sent thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host encompassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:8-17
I have quoted this beautiful story in full because it demonstrates in a particularly vivid manner that two worlds or two realms exist all about us. The first is the realm we all know so well, the natural realm. It is a realm that can be seen with natural eyes, heard with natural ears, touched with the natural hand, tasted with the natural palate, and smelled with the nostrils. The second is the realm of the spiritual, a realm that, to those who touch it, is ten thousand times more real than the natural world. Man has been excluded from this heavenly realm ever since that mundane hour when he stretched forth his inquisitive hand to discover for himself that which is good and that which is evil. On that unhappy day his eyes were fast closed to the metaphysical and spiritual realm to discern the physical and natural and to see his own nakedness and the nakedness of everything that belongs to this barren realm of death. Scales of spiritual blindness beclouded his vision, shutting out from his sight for the dispensations to come the effulgent glory of that world where God dwells in the Spirit. And yet that realm is as close to us today as it was then, the only difference being that our darkened vision cannot see it!
So it was that distant morning in the dusty little town of Dothan that two men looked out upon a scene that possibly has never again been repeated in the annals of human history. Standing before the gates of the town and encircling its walls stood the hosts of Syria with horsemen and chariots, spears and swords and banners, a mighty and well-equipped army sent to capture one humble and inoffensive prophet of God. It was this army that Gehazi, the servant, saw. But there was another army that stood round about Dothan that day, for far up in the mountain nearby stood the numberless hosts of the Lord with horses and chariots of fire.
“My father, my father,” cried the disconsolate Gehazi. “Alas, what shall we do?” For naught did his natural eyes see but the encompassing hosts of Syria, and well did he know the impossibility of escape. The knowledge that the hosts of the Lord with drawn and glittering swords were filling the skies could not penetrate the darkness of his natural mind. But with Elisha all was different. Well he knew that the hosts of Syria stood before him, but so small and insignificant did they seem to him that he scarcely noticed them at all. His gaze was fixed in a higher realm, a world with which he had become familiar as he walked in the Spirit with God, a world so wonderfully real that all who once have their eyes opened to it beg to remain in its celestial precincts, never more to return to the lowly estate and the level of the beasts. The frustration and fear that gripped the mind of this young man filled the heart of Elisha with pity, and, lifting his heart to God in prayer, he prayed, saying, “Lord, I pray Thee open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And, behold, the mountain was full of the horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
The truth is, my friend that the heavenly hosts were there all the time. The blindness was with the young servant, whose eyes were holden, allowing him to see only that which is natural, and not that more real world of the Spirit. And now I declare that not only the heavenly hosts but heaven itself is all around about you even as you read these lines, and, should the Lord but take away the veil of flesh from your sight, your eyes would behold the celestial realm and you would see and know and clearly understand; for the Lord is not far from any one of us. Acts 17:27 As Jacob said with trembling, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not.” Gen. 28:16
Our knowledge of God and our understanding of the things of God depend entirely upon where we dwell. If our dwelling place is in the natural realm, then the things of the natural realm become all-consuming and very real to us, but the things of the higher realm grow dim and far away. They become ethereal and unreal and sometimes so removed that they are scarcely worthy of our belief at all. But to those who dwell in the realm of God and walk in the world of the Spirit the things of earth grow dim and distant, very unreal and far away. The noise and strife of the nations and peoples fade away, while angels hymn their praises and we walk in the light of the Lord.
The aged man sits in his old arm-chair,
And bright is the light of the evening sky,
His wife close by his side with her silvered hair
And the open book of God close by.
Sweet on the day the gloaming falls,
And bright is the light of the evening star;
But dearer to them are the jasper walls
And the golden streets of the land afar.
The Lord hath made of one “all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us”. Acts 17:26-27. The Lord is not far from any one of us. He is nearer than hands or feet. If we seek after Him, we will find Him, and He will reveal Himself unto us. Why, then, do men dwell so far away from God, seeing he is not far from any one of us? Why do they not feel after Him and find Him, seeing He is nearer than hands or feet? Why must our lives be lived devoid of God’s Spirit, since the apostle declared, “In Him we live and move and have our being?” Acts 17:28 The answer to these questions is abundantly clear. It is simply this: God dwells in the realm of the Spirit and men dwell in the realm of the natural. There is a natural realm and there is a spiritual realm, but between the two realms hangs the veil of the flesh that darkens our eyes and beclouds our understanding.
In my book, The Meaning of the Cross, I have taken great pains to point out how God included all men in Christ long before we were born into this world, and that, when Christ was nailed to the cross and died, you were nailed to the cross in Him and died. Then in the book, From Death to Life, the truth was emphasized that the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life (alive) because of righteousness. Rom. 8:10. Thus the believer, the saved man, has a live spirit in a dead body. This present existence, which you and I fondly speak of as life is that which God speaks of as death, and death it really is. The only life God recognizes, as life is the life that Jesus gave us when we believed. He that hath the Son hath life. All else is death and all else is corruption.
I have no hesitation in saying that it is the flesh that separates all men from the realm of God. The flesh is the body; nothing more and nothing less. This I have made very clear in the book Two Realms. The carnal, or fleshly, mind is the mind that concerns itself entirely with all things physical – how it may cater to, please and satisfy the desires and lusts of the body whether in feeling, tasting, seeing, hearing, or smelling. To the carnal (fleshly) mind the flesh and the satisfaction of it is an end of great importance, though the flesh is never satisfied. It is the flesh that hinders all spiritual revelation. It is the flesh that hides the mind of God from us. The flesh influences us to attempt things that are of the will of man. The flesh has its own worship, and its god is itself. Even the massive healing campaigns so painfully evident in our day are not conducted that Christians may attain to spiritual heights, but that they may attain physical benefits that the present evil world may be enjoyed the more. Great spiritual heights are not attained through ease and luxury or physical well-being. They are more often attained through suffering and affliction, a path so opposite to the cravings of the natural man.
The Lord has graciously given to man a simple though difficult means by which the heavens may open to him and he may begin to enter beyond the veil of the flesh into the celestial realm. It is through fasting and prayer. I am not now speaking of the spiritual fast which seems to be indicated in Isaiah, chapter 58, but the thing most needful in our day is the simple act of fasting from food that we may more fully devote ourselves to prayer and communion with God. Let us consider some examples from scripture. The Bible teaches fasting more by example than by precept or doctrine. We who desire to learn the spiritual value gained by special seasons spent in complete abstinence from food as we seek the face of God must examine the instances in scripture where godly men and women laid aside the delights of eating and drinking and all other things pleasant to the flesh that they might reach beyond the veil of the flesh into those higher realms where God most surely dwells.
The disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus with this question: “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but Thy disciples fast not?” And Jesus said unto them, “Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” Matt. 9:14, 15. Let there be no doubt in any mind but that the bridegroom is now absent and these are the days of which the Savior spoke, saying, “Then shall they fast.” And I think great force is added to this statement in view of the fact that we have no account of the apostles’ fasting while Jesus was with them; but, after He left them, there is abundant evidence that these same men gave themselves to much fasting and prayer, and to this putting off of the flesh and rending its veil asunder we may confidently attribute both their fullness of power in service and the saintliness of their lives.
The Lord Jesus Christ commenced His ministry with what we call a prophet’s fast, a fast of forty days duration. After identifying Himself fully with man by His baptism, and after being filled with the Holy Spirit, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days of the severest testing. The entire forty days were spent completely without food, and during those days of severe temptation He gained complete victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil and angels came to minister to Him. He gained the victory over the flesh in that, though He hungered, He refused to turn the stones to bread to satisfy the desires of the body. He gained the victory over the world in that, when Satan offered Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them as a reward for His worship, His answer was, “Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.” Matt. 4:10. And He gained the victory over the devil in that He said, “Get thee hence, Satan, for thou savorest not the things which be of God,” and the devil departed from Him for a season. Also overcome were the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, those three things which in the beginning were instrumental in the fall of man. It is written of Eve that she saw the tree was good for food. This is the lust of the flesh. She saw it was a tree to be desired. This is the lust of the eyes. She saw it would make one wise. This is the pride of life.
Let the reader remember that it was the putting forth of the hand to partake of food, of whatsoever kind it was, which caused the heavens to be shut up from man in the beginning, and I think it is quite reasonable to believe that our refusal of that food which is only for the body will greatly assist us in our seeking to enter those realms of the Spirit where we share with the saints the glory of an open heaven.
Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit; and so will all men return who lay aside natural things that they may freely partake of heavenly things. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Gal. 5:17. Fasting is a God-given means of breaking the power of the flesh, rendering it helpless and submissive, that our spirit, which is in the image of God, loosed from the binding shackles of the flesh, may rise up into those realms of light where it truly belongs. The stronger the flesh, the weaker the Spirit; the weaker the flesh the stronger the Spirit. In this strange fact we find the answer to Paul’s anomaly, “When I am weak, then am I strong.” You will never know just how much you are in the flesh, nor just how much you cater to the flesh, nor what great and merciless power the flesh has over your spirit until the day comes when you announce to your flesh that you are going on a ten day fast from all food. Then you will learn that, until now, your spirit has been weak and your flesh has been very strong. Then you will know what a drag, what a nuisance, what a domineering, placating tyrant this body of death can really be. Then for the first time in your life you will better understand why Paul cried from the depths of his spirit, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Rom. 7:24
Nevertheless, he who fasts has this end in view: My spirit grows stronger. The corrupting power that held it fast in its vise-like grip, causing it to grovel as a slave within the carnal house of death, begins to relax its hold. The ice of winter melts slowly away while the spirit as a vapor ascends to those pure realms of God where it truly belongs. Let every Christian know with all certainty that he who lives in such low estate as to cater to the demands of the body of flesh is bringing his spirit into captivity, inertia, bondage, and death. Our living after the flesh produces a double curse in death to the body and death to the spirit, but hearken to this saying and learn it with all thoroughness and clearness: If you live after the Spirit, there will be a double benefit in life, for the living Spirit will also quicken and make alive your mortal flesh. Divine healing is not God’s best. It never was and never will be. God’s desire is that men shall walk in the Spirit to such an extent that, without thought or effort concerning the body, the life of the Spirit will quicken and make alive the mortal flesh. Rom. 8:11. It was in this realm of the Spirit that Moses walked, and, as a result, at the age of one hundred twenty years he found his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. Deut. 34:7.
There is a spirit of understanding that accompanies fasting and prayer. It is quite possible for one to read this article through only to emerge with faulty conclusions and wrong decisions. First of all let me say that is totally wrong for us to fix our minds on some objective and decide we are going to fast and pray until we receive it. This may seem a very reasonable thing to do, but it is wrong. The heart of man is deceitful and the heart of man is desperately wicked. Who can know it? The human heart is so deceitful that men are forever coveting the things of God entirely for their own benefit and aggrandizement. Such an attitude, whether recognized or not, is a great evil and a deceitful fraud. There are, for example, hundreds of men who have fasted and prayed that they might receive the gifts of healing. I have heard of men who fasted forty days that they might receive the gift of healing, but they did not receive it; and neither would they have received it had they fasted twice forty days. Some one will ask, “Why wouldn’t they receive it, since they sought it so earnestly?” The answer is simple and the truth is forthright and jarring. “Ye have not because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” James 4:2–3. Few men take kindly to such brutal truth, but the earnest searching of the heart would reveal that our much seeking was in our own interests, neither for the glory of God nor the benefit of mankind.
It is quite natural – and natural is the correct word – for people to imagine that to ask for a gift that would appear to be for the benefit of mankind and for the glory of God would certainly assure their receiving it without question. But let a man examine himself whether he be in the faith. Let him examine his motives for asking and his reasons for fasting, for that which is a gift God divides to men as He wills. 1 Cor. 12:9-11. Let him examine himself and he will probably discover the hidden and deceiving fact that his desire for the gift may have been much more for the benefit, the exaltation, and the promotion of himself and his ministry than for the glory of God or the benefit of mankind. How wicked and impure and deceitful the heart of man can be that it could thus deceitfully desire the gift of God for its personal promotion, hoping and expecting as many have done that the possession of a spectacular gift would draw the multitudes and he would become a great and notable man, and partaker of all the benefits that greatness and notability bring! “Ah, but,” you say, “such a circumstance could not be.” Ah, but it is true that such a circumstance could be, and such things happen over and over again in the lives of most of us! Was not this the deceptive thought that motivated the heart of Simon the sorcerer when he offered the apostles money for the gift and power they had? “Give me this power,” he said, “that on whomsoever I lay my hands he may receive the Holy Ghost.” And did not Peter discern his impure motives, telling him in no uncertain manner, “Thou has neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God... For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Acts 8:18-25. And was it not in the hope of financial gain that Balaam sought to curse Israel, and was rebuked for his covetousness? The dumb ass, speaking with man’s voice, forbade the madness of the prophet. 2 Pet. 2:15–16. Of course it was, and I have no hesitation in saying that the modern church system is full of Balaams who prophesy and heal for gain, and many preachers have the spirit of Simon and desire God’s gift for their own aggrandizement. I will further say that the church system is crowded with men and women who have no gift at all, only pretending they have, but with sleight of hand and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive, they gull and gudgeon, dupe and deceive, fool and fox, if it were possible, even the very elect. The healing meetings and healing campaigns of our day have for the most part become such an abominable money-raising hoax that I am often tempted to believe that in some cases at least they are the work of the Mafia. When will Christians awaken to the disturbing truth that the Wicked One, who will be destroyed by the brightness of Christ’s coming, is one with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish (2 Thess. 2:9-10), and that men will receive strong delusion to believe lies and all manner of deceiving things that they might be condemned? Let us learn here and now, before we begin our fasting, that it is useless to fast for these things the natural man lusts after.
There is, of course, a true and right spirit that will motivate and lead us to fasting and prayer. What, then, must our attitude be? How are we to know whether our attitude is right or wrong, since we are so easily beguiled and deceived through the deceitfulness of our own human heart? The all important question is simply this: Am I seeking to attain something for myself, or am I seeking through the crucifixion of self to become acquainted with the fullness of the mind and purpose of God? The longer I live and the closer my association with God becomes the more certain and assured I am that the secret of all success, all power, all faith, all knowledge, all wisdom, yes, and all holiness finds its beginning when our spirits enter into harmony and unity with the eternal purposes of the Lord. Once the Spirit of God makes clear to the human heart the design and desire of His own mind and the purpose of His will concerning any matter or any occasion, then he who walks in harmony with that eternal purpose cannot fail, but must succeed in whatsoever the Father bids him and leads him to do.
It is unnecessary for a man to fast and pray for mountain-moving faith. Not only is it unnecessary, but it is completely fruitless and useless. The secret of faith lies in the will of God, and in the will of God alone. It is not for you to fast and pray that you will have faith to remove a mountain, but it is for you, through fasting and prayer, to discover whether or not God wants the mountain removed. If He does want it moved, and if He wants you to move it, then it will be done – not because of your great faith, but because of His great will. But, if He does not want the mountain removed, all the praying and shouting and claiming promises will avail no more for you than the shouting and screaming and cutting themselves with knives availed for the prophets of Baal. How often we hear preachers talk about the faith of Elijah! How vividly they describe the things he did and the things he said while the audience giggles with glee! Though I have heard many preachers talk about the faith of Elijah as he stood before the prophets of Baal, I do not remember ever hearing any one draw attention to that rather insignificant verse which says, “Let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word” 1 Kings 18:36. Here lies the true secret of his faith. God had told him beforehand what he should do. Elijah did exactly as he was instructed of God and the result was exactly as the Lord intended. Any man or any woman reading these lines could do exactly the same thing that Elijah did, providing God had told him to do it, but Elijah himself would fail to repeat the same miracle if God had not told him to do it. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. That is the one and only source of faith.
For many years I read of the marvelous faith of George Mueller – how he built great orphanages, feeding and sustaining many hundreds of children for many years without ever mentioning his need or asking any one for a penny. How I coveted a similar faith by which mountains and obstacles could be removed! Well, the truth is that mountain moving faith is very simple. There is nothing to it at all – nothing except complete harmony with the will of God and the purpose of the Lord. Elijah himself could not have done what Mueller did simply because God had not asked him to do it. And George Mueller could not have called down fire on the altar simply because God did not ask him to do it or lead him into a circumstance where such an act was necessary. A lifetime of experience has taught me that there is only one element necessary to real faith, and that one element is the will of God. Therefore harmony with the divine mind is the secret of faith and it is this harmony and submission to God’s purpose in us that must be the single thought and the compelling spirit that controls all our fasting and all our prayer.
Perhaps you will say that it is simple to come into harmony with God’s will, and that is true; but let me first remind you that you will soon discover that all which is of the Spirit is contrary to all that is of the flesh. It is good to recognize the deceitful power of the carnal mind and to accept the brutal fact that all its desires are contrary to the will of God. It is not until you come to the place where you have no mind of your own that you will be able to receive the mind of God and come into harmony with His merciful purpose.
If you were to ask the average Christian the question, “What is it that the world needs most today”, he would probably tell you that the greatest need is a heaven-sent revival. If you were to ask him whether or not a revival would be God’s will, he would probably answer in the affirmative in no uncertain terms. But is it God’s will? Of course it is not. If it were His will, He would send it, and nothing in the universe could stop Him. The notion that the church has to be just so-so before a revival comes is poppycock. It is not more preachers we need. It is not more radio broadcasts or T.V. churches. It is not more missions and missionaries. It is not more tracts or even more Bibles. All we need is an elect people who know the mind of the Lord for the hour; and may I quickly add that there is an elect people who know the mind of the Lord for this hour, and they are in the exact place God said they would be when almost two thousand years ago Jesus said, “And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matt. 24:31
The spirit of “understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17) is the spirit that must accompany all our fasting and all our prayer if we are to have success. “Let me see Thy purpose, O Lord, as it concerns me. Let me see Thy will as it concerns me. Lead me in the path Thou wouldst have me go. Guide me with Thine eye.” This is the true spirit of prayer and the true spirit of fasting. All self-seeking is vain, useless, and degrading.
Many instances of fasting and prayer are recorded in the scripture. Each one, if studied prayerfully and with meditation, will add some definite conviction concerning this great truth. I would not presume to compare the value of one scripture with another, but much help and understanding concerning fasting will be found simply by reading the ninth chapter of Daniel. Daniel had been considering the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, who foretold the captivity of Judah in the land of Babylon for a period of seventy years. There was something about this truth that mightily stirred Daniel’s heart, causing him godly concern. So greatly did God’s Spirit move upon him that he said, “I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” Dan. 9:3
Let all God’s people know and thoroughly understand that the answer to every spiritual question lies in the realm of the Spirit. The mysteries of God can never be fathomed, solved, or pried into by the natural mind. Those dear saints whose hearts are stirred to know the secrets of the Most High must, must, must first pass beyond the veil of the natural mind and natural understanding to stand where God stands in the Spirit. The truths of the Bible are to the natural mind little but dead, lifeless stories, filled with all manner of futility, but, when the glory light of God shines upon them, then from the cold meaningless shadow there materializes the substance of eternal truth.
Daniel knew, as I trust you also know, that the answer to the perplexities of his mind lay far beyond the wisdom of man. No amount of prying, or figuring, or enquiring of wise men, or adding two and two together to make four could possibly solve the mystery that baffled his mind. These were the secrets of God and the answer was not in man. The secret was hidden in God and the interpretation must come from Him. Well did this Daniel know that God had placed in his hand the master key that would open the door to the understanding of the omniscient One, though the lock itself was concealed beyond the veil of the flesh and beyond the reach of the natural mind. That magic key is fasting and prayer, and those who use it often will discover the secrets of the Lord and His eternal purposes unfolding before the eyes of their understanding. Would God that every Christian would learn that the secret things of the Lord cannot be received second hand. However adept a teacher may be his ability to unfold the mysteries of God is limited and confined to the realm in which his hearers dwell. Even Jesus Christ Himself felt the agonizing pains of this restriction as His words of life continually fell on ears dull through the flesh and hearts gross and heavy and incapable of understanding anything beyond the natural realm.
Paul, when speaking the simple truth to the Jews in Rome, suffered the pangs of an exasperated helplessness until he cried in his frustration, “Well spake the Holy Ghost by the prophet Isaiah, saying. Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” Acts 28:25-27 How strange that we, the children of God, should consent to grope as children of men in the outer darkness of the natural mind while within our hand lies the key that opens the door to the treasure house of eternal wisdom!
At the moment of Christ’s death upon the cross the veil of the temple was rent asunder opening the way to the holy of holies. There is no stronger conviction within my soul than the conviction that a dedication to fasting and prayer will begin the rending of the veil of the flesh in that temple which we are, opening the way into the holy of holies of spiritual revelation and understanding. Without any hesitation whatever I make this statement, which I know to be true: If men and women would enquire of God with fasting and prayer concerning the things that mystify and trouble them, they would hear from heaven and, being convinced of God, would find it unnecessary to ask endless questions of men, the answers to which often fall on dull ears and hearts made gross and heavy with the cares and troubles of this present evil world. How unkeen and unsharp do our spiritual senses become by much partaking of the bread of men! How good and wise is the Lord our God to have secretly hidden all spiritual understanding just beyond the reach of the natural man in that secret place of the Most High! There beneath the shadow of the Almighty it may be touched by those who are willing to reckon themselves dead and to prove it so by the laying aside of every weight and every besetting sin that, free from defilement, they may receive of His wisdom.
The temple of the Lord at Jerusalem was but a type of the true temple “which ye are”. The tabernacle in the wilderness and all that pertained to it was also a type of the temple “which ye are” and that greater temple, the body of Christ, a temple composed of all the elect believers. That mysterious tabernacle contained in type every possible aspect of the true church, which is Christ’s body. In type or in pre-figure it taught every doctrine in the New Testament without exception. Within its confines were three distinct places of spiritual worship – the outer court with its brazen altar of sacrifice, which is the cross; the holy place with its candlestick, the altar of incense and the tables of shewbread, a holy place of communion, indeed; and beyond that the holiest of all, the holy of holies, where was the ark of the covenant, the cherubims of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, beneath which lay the law of God, the golden pot with the manna, and the rod of Aaron that budded and blossomed and brought forth almonds in one night, which typifies the resurrection. But I am burdened now to emphasize in particular the fact that over the door to each of these spiritual places hung a veil, which Paul says typifies the flesh. Heb. 10:20. It was impossible even to enter the outer court without passing through the outer veil. It was impossible also for the priests to enter the dimly lit holy place without passing through the second veil, which also represents the flesh, and the high priest, who entered the holiest of all once a year, could not enter the holy of holies without passing through the inner veil. The holiest of all was not dimly lit with candles as was the holy place nor even by the light of the sun as was the outer court, but the light that flooded it with glory was the shekinah, the light which God Himself is, the light which Jesus is, the light beyond the light of the sun, even that light which will lighten the New Jerusalem in the blessed day when they have no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it, for the glory of God will lighten it and the Lamb is the light thereof. Rev. 21:23.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter. Prov. 25:2. God has never engaged in the artless business of casting pearls before swine. For that very reason He veils the precious treasures that only those who seek may find, only to those who knock will the door be opened, and to those who ask in sincerity with no conditions attached will the blessing be given from His bountiful hand. Thus for good reason was the door to each holy place shrouded by a veil, a curtain, which in its first analysis the flesh. The truth we are taught by this should be clearly seen by all who have understanding and by all who have eyes to see. If we enter only the outer court, which in type represents the realm of justification by faith, we must pass through the first veil of the flesh, laying aside by the power of God all those outward lusts and manifestations of the flesh so common among the ungodly, the lying, the swearing and committing adultery, the drinking, the smoking, and a thousand other corrupt things freely indulged in by the world of the unregenerate. If the cross does not change these things and deliver us from them, then the cross has not been reached nor the blood of cleansing applied. Justification does nothing if it does not deliver men from overt sin, separating them unto the Lord.
No sooner is a man justified by faith and cleansed from open sin than he finds himself facing a second veil, the great curtain that hung between the outer court and the holy place of sanctification and communion with its altar of incense, its bread of communion, and the light from the sevenfold candlestick. Those who advance to this second realm deal with the flesh as it appears and manifests itself within the soul, for those who were cleansed from adultery, fornication and uncleanness when they passed the outer veil are still possessed with idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions and heresies, things always common in the Babel of denominationalism. Beyond the second veil lies the third, guarding the way to the holy of holies and teaching us that all who would enter the presence of God must be cleansed from the filthiness of the flesh as it appears in the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. Those who enter into this third and celestial realm live no longer in the realm of the senses of the body, but in the realm of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling in the realm of the Spirit, the realm where Elisha lived.
How long should one fast? There is no set length of time to govern our fasting and prayer. The scripture tells us nothing concerning the length of time we should abstain from food during times of special seeking after God. Let us always remember that we are not fasting to earn a reward, but to seek the face of God unhampered by the flesh. A fast may mean anything from the simple omission of a meal to long and extended periods up to forty days. The Pharisee who prayed, saying, “I fast twice in the week”, is usually regarded with contempt, but, though his heart attitude was admittedly faulty and unworthy of the praise of God, his practice was one that, if pursued in the proper spirit, would have brought a bountiful blessing to his spiritual life. John Wesley was so convinced of the value of fasting twice in the week that he stated he could as readily contemplate cursing as contemplate not fasting twice in the week. This is a strong way of emphasizing his point, but it vividly shows the value this great reformer placed on the sacred art of fasting as an enabling means by which we can more readily enter into the spiritual realm. Slavishness to rules and regulations in the hope of gaining the favor of God should be cast from us, but times and seasons consecrated to the Lord are accepted of Him, and we should be fervent in our performance of them.
Paul said that he was often in fasting (2 Cor. 11:27), and clearly stated that he approved himself as a minister of God by labors and watchings and fastings. 2 Cor. 6:5. He makes little reference to the length of time of his often fasting, yet I suppose these fasts varied in length from one or two days to much longer periods. The time of his shipwreck on the Isle of Melitus indicates a fast of fourteen days (Acts 27:33), at the end of which time the angel of God stood by him and delivered all who were on the ship, bringing them safely to shore. See also Acts 14:23. Daniel’s fast was of three weeks’ duration, during which time he seems to have abstained from pleasant bread and wine and all other gastronomic delights. After twenty-one days of fasting, confession, and consecration he was visited by the angel Gabriel, who enlightened him with an understanding of the ages such as was never before revealed to man. See Daniel, chapters 10, 11, 12. The revelation he received that day was a vivid outline of the ages to follow, a pre-written history of great events by which we in these last days are being vitally affected.
Then there was the fast of Elijah (1 Kings 19:8) in which he went for forty days on the strength of one meal, given him by an angel – a fast after which the Lord revealed to him many necessary things, telling him to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria and Jehu to be king of Israel and Elisha to be the prophet in his room (1 Kings 19:15,16), a fast after which he was soon taken up into heaven in a whirlwind to walk forever in the celestial realm. The longest recorded fast in the Bible was the fast of Moses, the man of God, who, after fasting in the mount of the Lord for forty days, fell down at the sight of Israel’s idolatry and continued fasting for a second forty days, apparently without touching food at all. Deut. 9:9-18. And what shall we write of Hannah, who waited before God in fasting for a son (1 Sam. chapter 1), and of the fasting of David in his awful distress until his knees were weak from fasting. Psa. 109:23,24. And of the Ninevites who, upon hearing the preaching of Jonah, covered themselves with sackcloth and denied food or water even to their animals while they themselves fasted and cried mightily to God; and God heard their prayer because of their sincerity and because of the thoroughness of their repentance, turning away His wrath and sparing the city. Jonah 3.
Carnal men “whose god is their belly” (Phil 3:19) can always find convenient excuses for refusing to fast. I am not remotely interested either in answering their corrupt and carnal arguments or in interpreting the scriptures they advance to prove their point. My ministry was not given to tickle the ears of men who love the flesh and live for its demands every day, but to those blessed folk who have esteemed the words of His mouth more than their necessary food. Job 23:12. This wicked age is still blessed by the presence of those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness”, and these are they whose hunger and thirst for spiritual realities far outweighs their hunger and thirst for things of time and sense. The bread of heaven stands compared to the bread of earth as bread stands compared to a stone, an egg to a scorpion, or a fish to a serpent.
Fasting, you may expect, will be a misery to the flesh. Unless you are an exception to the rule, your whole life has been spent living by bread alone. Your body demands food and rebels violently against your decision to lay aside the bread of death that you may partake unhindered of the bread of life. I shall not hesitate to tell the novice who has never practiced fasting and prayer that you will experience a very bad time at first from the demands of the body. Your body will feel weak. Your head will probably ache. Your back will ache and your stomach will cry incessantly for food. Your friends will tell you that you are ruining your health that they know of people who died from doing just what you are doing. I tell you this before it happens that you may know what to expect. I see now the wisdom of God in telling us to fast in secret. Matt. 6:17, 18. It is one way of avoiding the bad advice of the public. How often I have had people tell me, “I get sick when I fast, so I just can’t do it.” I have no sympathy for you, my friend. Your whole trouble is, though you are loath to believe it, that your spirit, your soul, your mind, and even your Christ is in bondage to your flesh, which is your body. Learn the deceitfulness of the natural heart and turn away from it. Have I not already said that there is a veil of flesh standing before each holy place and each new experience with God? It is only when we reach out our hand to rend these fleshly veils that exist in every life that we realize how strong they really are. It is abundantly true that Jesus in His death rent asunder the Veil in the temple but it is now given to you, O Son of God, through faith in Him to rend asunder the veil of the flesh in the holy temple which you are.
As soon as we begin fasting, we are doing the greatest possible favor to our physical bodies. It is an absolute fact that practically any physical distress or ailment and many diseases as well can be completely cured by long periods of fasting. I personally knew a lady who had suffered a physical disability for almost fifty years. She fasted for thirty days, not for healing but just to draw nigh to God. At the end of her fast she discovered to her joy and amazement that not only had she drawn nearer to God but her body was perfectly cured from that day forward. My own mother suffered intensely from continual headaches, but on hearing from a friend that four days without food had helped him, she also made the attempt, and to my knowledge from that day forth she was free of this blighting distress. I am also acquainted with a man who, after fasting for thirty days, found he was completely healed of prostate gland trouble, that fearful disease so common to western civilization. Even the doctors of the German army found that fasting was a more effective cure for the sick and wounded soldiers than drugs. The body is not composed of drugs and should not be forced to accept them. Fasting will do more for your ulcer than all the diets and medicines imaginable. No doubt there are cases where special care is needed, but the man or woman with an ordinary degree of health can receive nothing but lasting benefit from fasting.
The headache and fever that sometimes accompanies fasting for the first few days is evidence that the body is cleansing itself. Unhampered by an over-loaded stomach, it is now free to burn up, destroy, and cast off poisons that have accumulated in the system for a lifetime. You must completely ignore this temporary physical distress and keep your mind away from the thought of food or of yielding to the temptation to eat. Refuse to even open the cupboard door to take a look lest you add to your distress. Drink all the water you wish, and the more the better, warm or hot if you prefer. Go and have a sleep if you must. Take courage that you are not only cleansing your body, but you are laying aside that one thing which has long hindered you from entering the higher realms of Christian experience. After you have fasted about four or five days, you will probably discover that you are now experiencing less physical weakness, distress and hunger. Your stomach pangs are lessening. Your headaches and fever are disappearing. You are now passing the difficult period. Much poison has been cleansed from your body. The spirit is rising to pre-eminence. The flesh is less demanding. The experience of practically all people who fast is to discover that, by the time they have fasted ten days, physical hunger has practically ceased and physical distresses have gone also. Their strength is largely regained and they are quite capable of a good day’s work. There is no reason to believe that we cannot continue our work while fasting unless, of course, it is work that requires more than usual physical effort, a thing sadly lacking in our day.
I write these simple instructions so that people will understand some of the difficulty experienced while getting into a fast. People who know what they must expect will not be so easily dissuaded, knowing that after the distress comes healing and after the weakness comes strength. People who are in fastings often do not suffer this same distress over and over every time they fast. The first fast is usually the most difficult. The person who has once accomplished a two week fast will probably find that, upon fasting a second time, he will experience practically none of those things I have mentioned. This is simply because his body is in much better condition.
A word of caution is in order about breaking a fast. You must break your fast carefully. This is very important. Because the stomach has not had food for some days, the first few meals must be very light, such as fruit juices or salads. Never break a fast by eating a big meal. It is a very bad thing to do and may cause you much distress. Eat very little at first until your body once again becomes accustomed to taking food. If you were customarily overweight before you fasted, your body will strive hard to regain the weight it had, but if you watch carefully for a few weeks, weighing each morning, you will be able to maintain the weight you had at the end of your fast. After a few weeks your body will adjust to this new weight and you will have no further problem.
It is unnecessary, when you are fasting, to worry about starving to death. This will not happen. After a week or so your hunger disappears and it will not return until your body has completely cleansed itself of all the accumulations of poison. However, after this has been accomplished, your hunger will return in no uncertain manner. It is then time to start eating since to continue longer would begin the process of starvation. Healthy persons may not reach this end before thirty or forty days.
After you have fasted six days or so, you will notice how clean you feel in body and spirit. After two weeks you will be surprised at the lightness of your step. It is after you have passed the misery of the first few days that you begin to realize the tremendous benefits that have begun. Then you will realize what a liar the flesh has always been. You will understand better why I have often said in my writings that the flesh is our greatest enemy. Satan himself has no power over us except through our flesh. Our real enemy is our own flesh, it is certain that we both were and are crucified with Christ, but it is just as certain that God has placed within our grasp the ability to see that this great work of Christ is accomplished in us in spirit, soul, and body.
Like all the great truths of scripture the varied aspects of this truth are practically exhaustless, and we cannot make an exhaustive study of them. Let us remember, however, as we have pointed out in the first part of this chapter, that the main benefit to be derived from fasting is the spiritual benefit. Our wise heavenly Father has placed all Christian experience in different realms, each realm one step higher than the preceding one. There are three definite and distinct realms portrayed in scripture, though not mentioned in so many words. There are the natural realm, the spiritual realm, and the celestial realm. Our journey is from the natural through the spiritual to the celestial. These three realms are clearly demonstrated in the three sections of the tabernacle – the outer court with its natural sunlight, the holy place with its sevenfold candlestick, and the holiest of all where was the shekinah, the glory light of God’s presence. The first realm, the outer court, is where the crowds gathered. This is the natural realm with excitement and activity. The second realm is the holy place, the realm of communion, of bread and incense. The third realm is where the high priest entered to minister before God Himself. This is the celestial realm.
Remember, then, that in fasting and prayer our chief aim is not the attainment of physical benefits, but the releasing of the spirit from the bondage of the flesh that it may enter beyond the veil into the realm where God eternally dwells in the Spirit. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth. The flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life.” John 6:63
A PLACE BY ME
O Christ! Who once has seen Thy visioned beauty —
He counts all gain but loss;
And other things are naught if he may win Thee,
And share with Thee Thy cross.
And he on whom its shadow once has fallen
Walks quietly and apart.
He holds the master key of joy and sorrow
That opens every heart.
The burdened souls that pass him on the highway
Turn back to take his hand;
And murmur low with tear-wet eyes of anguish,
“You know — you understand.”
ANNIE JOHNSON FLINT
There are every increasing signs that some people are abandoning their natural way of looking at things. More and more they are opening their hearts to the spirit of revelation from God, which alone can make the invisible things, hidden from the creation of the world, clearly seen and thoroughly understood. The natural mind because it is natural gets every spiritual truth inside out, upside down, and back end foremost. Therefore the further man goes with his human reasoning and finite understanding the further he strays from the path of truth. His theology may resemble the truth. It may be a very plausible imitation; but it is error, nonetheless, and not the truth.
The Spirit of God alone can “take the things of God and show them unto you”. John 16:13-16. Let us then pause in our path, retrace our steps, abandon all human theology and philosophy, and there in utter abandonment to God and the Spirit of truth cry as David, “Lord, open my eyes.” Psa. 119:18. Never under any circumstances do I ever permit myself the dubious luxury of religious argument, the reason being that all debate and dispute is on the level of the natural mind, and the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor. 2:14. Our human theories concerning the things of God count for nothing. Even the correctness of what we say is useless without the spirit of revelation. In God’s plan we become partakers and participators in our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is concerning our participation in Him that we now direct our earnest attention.
We often speak of the apostle John as the beloved disciple, and the word of God indicates that he was, indeed, the disciple whom Jesus loved, but dare we suggest that Jesus held some special favoritism toward John? I do not think so. The real reason that Jesus loved John so much was that John loved Jesus so much. “I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me” is still the word of the Lord. Prov. 8:17. And Jesus Himself, speaking of this very thing, said, “If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him; and We will come unto him and make Our abode with him.” John 14:23
The history of the world since the fall of man has been one of continual crises. They were crises insofar as finite man was concerned, but to God they were events predestined and foreknown of Him from the foundation of the world. Just as surely as times of crisis arose, God’s chosen men and God’s chosen people arose with them. God always has a people for His name who enjoy a special relationship and a distinguishing identification with Himself. If you will examine the heroes of faith one by one, you will learn that in all times of apostasy and falling away the heavenly Father never left Himself for a moment “without a witness” in the earth, and each witness in his turn left his attestation and his mark in the exact way God intended. It will do no one any good to try to leave his mark upon history or to make a great name for himself. The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong. God raises up whomsoever He will. He uses worms to thrash mountains, acorns to make mighty oak trees, and drops of water to wear away the hardest rock. At this moment He is watching each man on the chess board of His creation move into his appointed place in the divine scheme of things even as the words you are now reading fall into their place in the paragraph.
Nothing useless is or low;
Each thing in its place is best.
And what seems but idle show.
Strengthens and supports the rest.
Enoch had a special relationship with God. Though the Bible records only a sentence or two concerning him, those words of inspiration give testimony to a relationship and identification with the Eternal that is so sublime that children of God in every age would do well to follow in his steps. “Enoch walked with God” is the testimony of the Lord; and, because he did, it is written, “He was not, for God took him.” Gen. 5:24. So intimate was his participation in the Lord, so complete his sharing in God’s eternal life that death could not seize upon him as it did upon others; so through the gates of life God took him to be forever with the Lord.
Enoch walked with God. It was no easier to walk with God in his day than it is now. No doubt Enoch, as Elijah, was “subject to like passions as we are.” Undoubtedly the nominally religious throng of his day crowded its way to the public gatherings, joined in the chantings and the hymns, listened to the sermons, contributed their pennies, partook of the forms and ceremonies, and returned home to dinner and their schemes for a bountiful life in the flesh tomorrow; but Enoch walked with God. Special days of the week, special occasions, new moons or Sabbaths made no difference to him, for he was walking in the timeless realm with the eternal God. The darkness of the hour in which he lived had no withering or blighting influence upon his relationship with the Lord. Nothing could let or hinder his identification with the Eternal and nothing could for an hour halt his participation in the bread of life or that water of life, which is Christ Himself.
Enoch, the inspired record declares, was the seventh from Adam. Clear as the ringing of a vesper bell do these words of inspiration fall on our ear, for we, significantly, are now approaching the seventh dispensation from Adam. I am convinced beyond doubt that the sun has set on the sixth age and dawn with rosy steps advancing in the eastern clime heralds the glorious morning of the seventh age. The seventh generation is rising; the seventh day is about to begin, and we, like Enoch, are the seventh from Adam. In all quarters of the earth a peculiar people is coming into being, a people far removed from the religious systems of the day. Sects, denominations and creeds may belong to others, but not to them. Because they “walk with God”, the blinding, enslaving systems of religion are no longer part of them, for Christ is their life. Christ is their breath, their bread and their water. Christ is their way, their truth, and their life. In Him they live and move and have their being and by Him they come to the Father. To them He is the beginning of all things and the end of all things. To them He has become the Alpha and the Omega. He has become their head and they have become His body. They are learning the intrinsic secret of these majestic words: “Thou in Me and I in Thee, that they may become perfect in one.” By their baptism into one Spirit they have learned that there is no schism in the body of Christ, but that all schism and division is outside His body. To them there is but one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit, one God, the Father of all. They are as Enoch was, the seventh from Adam, blessed be the name of the Lord. From one to six is man’s day, but the seventh belongs to the Lord. They walk with God because they have partaken of Him. They are participators in Christ and are identified only with Him. Their walk with God is in preparation for the hour when all shall know Him from the least to the greatest. These things shall be! A loftier race
Than e’er the world hath known shall rise,
The flame of freedom in their souls,
And light of knowledge in their eyes.
Nation with nation, land with land,
Unarmed shall live as comrades free.
In every heart and brain shall throb
The pulse of one fraternity.
There shall be no more sin, no shame,
And wrath and wrong shall fettered lie;
For men shall be at one with
God In bonds of love and charity.
The world before the flood had much in common with our world today. Then as now men were multiplying rapidly on the face of the earth. The sons of God with reckless and imprudent abandon were marrying the daughters of men and from their corrupt and sordid union monstrous giants, hateful and cruel, came forth as men of renown. They were “marrying and giving in marriage” just as we see it today. The biblical phrase, marrying and giving in marriage, does not imply the simple marriage union. These perverted people, the sons of Belial, were practicing every wickedness prevalent in the world today. They were marrying, divorcing, re-marrying, and swapping wives and husbands. They worshipped the god of sex in all its perverted forms, Men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lusts one toward another, and the women did change the natural use into that which is against nature. So filthy in our day also has the worship of the god of sex become that even the carnally minded feel revulsion at the mention of the word. The world then even as now was filled with endless “forms of godliness”, but they denied the power of it; for then as now they “loved pleasure” far more than they loved God. With concise and all inclusive clarity the divine record states: “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” See Gen. 6. Would it be possible for any man to paint a more accurate picture of the world in our day? Is not this exactly as Paul by inspiration described the latter days in 2 Tim. 3:1-6? Oh, that we might remember the Master’s words: “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the day of the coming of the Son of man.”
Dissolute, immoral, and corrupt as the world had become, God had reserved Himself one man who was just and perfect in his generation of whom it is written: “Noah walked with God.” Gen. 6:9. Shall we who were chosen of God to live in the closing hours of this age, an hour of which the days of Noah were but a type, imagine for even a moment that the Spirit of God has failed to reserve a people who “walk with Him”? Such a thing could never be. It would be unlike God in all He is and does. Even the ages themselves record that the Lord never leaves Himself without a people for His name. When all the world was given over to idol worship in the days of Abraham, did the Lord leave Himself without a witness? No, He did not; for the Lord had said to Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” Gen. 12:1. Ur of the Chaldees, where Abraham dwelt, was down in the land where the tower of Babel was built. In all probability Abraham saw with his eyes the building of the tower and heard with his ears the confusion of tongues that is typical of Babylon unto this day. But far above the din of Babel‘s voices Abraham, the “friend of God”, was hearing the sweet harmony of heaven. 2 Chron. 20:7; James 2:23.
In these the closing days of the age of grace, when the Babylon system has risen to such dizzying heights, embracing in its octopus-like arms with ever increasing firmness all the religious and political systems of earth, the Spirit of God is separating unto Himself a people who walk with Him, a people who are as separated and apart as Daniel or Abraham, a people who are in truth and verity friends of God and brothers of Jesus Christ. Let there be no mistake in the minds of those who read lest Satan should beguile you to believe that there is a place for you, a member of Christ’s body, among the religious systems of our day. The Spirit of God is speaking to the friends of God as He did to Abraham, saying, “Get thee out!” “Get thee out of thy country!” Get thee out from among thy kindred!” “Get thee out from thy father’s house!” Get thee out of the denominations! Get thee out of the sects! Get thee out of the little groups! Get thee out of the groups with a name! Get thee out of the groups without a name! Come out of her, my people! Come out from among them and be separate and walk with Me to the realm that I will show thee.
As we walk the paths of meditation to consider the lives of these men who have become a cloud of witnesses, there is one outstanding fact that illumines the heart like a flash of lightning. It is this: Enoch, who walked with God, walked outside the groups and systems of his day. Noah, who alone was just and righteous in his generation, was not involved with any of the systems about him. Abraham, the friend of God, was told to “get out” from among relations, friends, countrymen and country. Jacob was Jacob only when he walked like other men, but when he met with God, his name was changed to Israel, and he was called “a prince with God”. It was when he met with God that his flesh shrank and he halted upon his thigh. Then all men everywhere knew Israel by the way he walked. And Moses in like manner fled in terror from Egypt, leaving forever its systems and teachings, that he might know God face to face as no man before had known him. Of David it is written that he was a man “after God’s own heart”. But so much without the camp and outside the systems did he dwell that in the dispensation of law, when sacrifice and offerings were the order of the day, he lifted his heart to God, saying, “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it.” Psa. 51:16. Should we therefore think it strange that in our day God should call the members of His holy temple to walk with Christ and dwell with Him outside the camp of religious systems? Is it peculiar that to the friends of God it should be said, “Get thee out?” Can we who reverently dote upon the words of Paul fail to hear him say, “Therefore let us go unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:11), since we have no continuing city here, but journey to one which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God?
There is a beautiful picture in the New Testament, an image to be seen by the spirit much as the trained and talented sculpturer sees the image of a man in the uncarved rock. From the chaos of the uncarved rock of a universe without form and void, without God and without hope, the eternal Architect and Sculpturer has envisioned a perfection that none but Himself could produce. In the uncarved mass of humankind His eye has seen the likeness of untold millions of sons in His image standing upon the elysian fields of redemption to govern the entire universe in righteousness. No more forever will the words “without form and void” be spoken, but to the far flung corners of the universe shall the message be heard: “He created it not in vain.” Nor shall it be said again that darkness was upon the face of the deep, for the Lord almighty is the light thereof.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. In that blessed verse the world and the whosoever are in great prominence. Far out on the horizons of humanity God loves the people who know nothing of Him. His salvation encompasses the masses and hordes of human kind who never once knew that God ever had a Son or that He came as the Redeemer of all mankind to purchase and possess in Christ all that was lost in Adam. So great was the redemption of Christ that God does now proclaim from the very gates of Paradise, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Cor. 15: 22. Well do we know that the world is full of sinful men, and that evil men and seducers are waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, but do not write them off forever as Satan’s eternal captives, for “they know not what they do”. There is a day coming after God has prepared His chosen sons when they who sit in darkness will see a great light, and life will come to men whose abode has been the valley of the shadow of death. So marvelous is God’s grace and power that I am sure, had He shined His glory light into the darkened heart of Pharaoh or of Adolph Hitler as He shone it into the darkened heart of Saul of Tarsus, the result would have been the same with them as with him. Hitler was bent on murdering Jews.
In his darkened mind burned the wicked objective called by him the “final solution”. He would kill and destroy them all. Was not Saul of Tarsus possessed with the same paranoic dementia against the Christians? Did his mind not burn with the hope of a bloody “final solution”? So then, you see, it is “not of him that willeth or of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”
As the glory of the light of revelation shone into the heart of Isaiah the prophet, from his inspired lips these words of truth poured forth as water from the fountain of life: “Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run into thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for He hath glorified thee.” Isa. 55:5. “And He shall judge among the people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, an their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Micah 4:3
While men grope in darkness and preachers without a breath of inspiration in their barren souls proclaim the eternal loss of ninety-nine percent of all mankind to sin and the devil, God the Father, who saw a world of unborn men die in Adam, proclaimed with rejoicing a world of men made alive in Jesus Christ our Lord. As I have listened to preachers by the score striving desperately and even frantically to get men to repent and be saved, my heart is often filled with sadness because the message they preach is made weak and futile by their failure to grasp the infinite purposes of that omniscient mind who laid His plans in Christ before ever there was a world or a sinner in it. All through the ages with clock-like precision everything is coming to pass as He purposed and in the very hour He purposed it. Many times in my life men and women have asked me this question: “Do you believe in a second chance?” My answer to them is simply this: “No, I do not believe in a second chance, and neither do I believe in a first chance.” The one omniscient mind of the universe leaves none of His eternal purposes to chance. It was not by chance that you heard the truth nor was it chance that you were saved. What seemed chance to you was in reality the invisible working of the purpose of the omniscient and omnipotent God.
There were always those in the life of Jesus who were intimately nearer to Him than that great restless world of unheeding mankind. There was a crowd of about five hundred who followed Him as much and as often as they could. They had come to a closer relationship with Him than the multitudes who found the zenith of their ambition in loaves and fishes. No doubt many like Nicodemus were secret disciples. They followed afar off, yet they believed and knew in their hearts that He was the Christ. Many of these were no doubt among the five hundred brethren to whom He appeared after His resurrection and who stood and watched Him ascend to heaven from the mount of Olives. Of this same number came the one hundred and twenty disciples who tarried in the upper room until the promised Holy Spirit fell upon them on the day of Pentecost, instantly transforming their lives by a baptism of such tremendous power that never again did it appear that flesh was to have any hold upon them.
Besides these there was another group of seventy men appointed and chosen of the Lord, men of whom it is said that their names were written in heaven. Luke 10: 20. It is true that other men, numbered perhaps in thousands, were His disciples, some following near and some afar off, but these men were more than disciples. They had been especially chosen and to them was given the divine commission to carry the kingdom message into all the towns and villages into which Jesus Himself would afterward come. They were to tell the people of the nearness of the kingdom of God. They were to walk as lambs among wolves, carrying neither purse nor script nor shoes, and saluting no man by the way. Into whatsoever house they entered there they were to remain, eating and drinking what things were set before them until their ministry was completed. They were to heal their sick and pronounce peace upon the household in return for the hospitality given them, but whenever a city refused to receive them, the very dust of that town was to be shaken from their feet as a witness against it. Cf. Luke 10: 1-12. And when with rejoicing the seventy returned, saying, “Lord, even the devils are subject to us through Thy name”, He said, “Rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but that your names are written in heaven.” “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Luke 10: 21
In all the realm of human frailty and failure there is nothing more evident or more destructive than our tendency to revel and rejoice in the things we have accomplished. “Lord, even the devils are subject to us through Thy name,” they proclaimed in their boundless exuberance. No doubt they were thrilled by the size of the audience that had listened to them. Delighted beyond words were they to see the multitudes of people healed and perhaps a little exalted because of their success and their influence upon the people. Words failed to describe their feelings of triumph as demons, crying with loud voices, departed from those tormented by them.
How prone is the natural man to rejoice in the things that are evident to the eye! During the lifetime of many of us have not our hearts been saddened time and again as we have heard the boasting of men concerning their supposed accomplishments, or beheld the high-sounding advertisements that appear in the local newspapers or on the handbills handed to the passerby, or displayed in windows and prominent places! They boast of the crowds, of the converts, and of the healings. They exalt the preacher and display his college degrees, often falsely. I have known preachers who advertise their prowess as swimmers and athletes and display their awards for things they have done. They advertise their careers as criminals, gamblers, singers, and movie stars. When, oh when, will men learn that the “flesh profiteth nothing?” When will they learn as Paul learned, “What things were gain to me, these I counted loss for Christ?” All such gain he considered on the level of common dung.
Full well did Jesus know that success even in the spiritual realm was nothing that should occasion either boastfulness or pride. Perhaps, if other men have reason to glory in what seem to be accomplishments, I, too, would have some reason for boasting. But forty years of experience and silent observation have taught me the fiery lesson that he who foolishly puts his confidence in men or crowds or visible results will be bitterly disappointed. He will learn before long that crowds are fickle and their acclaim as changeable as the wind. Crowds are as fickle today as they were during the earthly ministry of Jesus. They shout their hosannas to the Son of David as they wave their palm branches and spread their garments as a carpet for His feet, jubilantly anticipating an earthly kingdom; but in the hour of His greatest trial they shout, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! We will not have this man to reign over us.” How often I have seen the jubilant multitudes as in one hour of victory they were almost ready to worship a man, but the next week they are spreading evil reports, sowing discord, and rejoicing in the lies, which increased in their absurd intensity as they passed from mouth to mouth. Levi Petrus, of Stockholm, Sweden, once pastor of the largest congregation of Christians on earth, told me that he had been accused of every sin in the book except murder. But that is people! They are the same fickle, vacillating throng in every generation, blessing in triumph and good adventure and cursing in adversity and misadventure.
When Jesus, therefore, heard them rejoicing over the success of their ministry, He told them of a much more wonderful thing. He, too, had seen an event more far-reaching than any of the things in which they rejoiced. “I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven!” Luke 10:18. “Nevertheless, rejoice not that the demons are subject to you, but rather that your names are written in heaven.” It is our relationship with God that must be our fulfilling cause for rejoicing. It is this that our heavenly Father is longing to see. This is perfume in His nostrils. The children of God have walked in blindness as to the true purpose of their lives here on earth. The corrupting tradition of a harlot Church system has taught them to believe that the important thing in this brief life is to be “up and doing for God”, wearing their fingers to the bone, becoming nervous wrecks, and wearing themselves out for God. “Wear out, not rust out,” they say. The general thought seems to be that the house is on fire – God’s house at that – and except we race and tear and scramble and snatch the people from the burning wreckage, everything and everybody will fall into the devil’s embrace and hell from beneath will devour it all. As long as we see God’s will and purpose to be such a hubbub of frustration and disorder as that, we will never become acquainted with the eternal God of the universe whose knowledge is omniscient, whose will is immutable, whose power is omnipotent, whose wisdom is inscrutable, whose love is fathomless, whose time is eternal, whose kindness has appeared to all men.
As farm boys enjoying the delights of our boundless prairie heritage, we never failed to be intrigued with the ant hills, those tiny insect communities that bulged up and appeared here and there over the countryside. We would gaze with pleasure at these little creatures as they swarmed about intent on their insect tasks, doing things we could not understand, lugging loads three times the size of their tiny bodies, transporting their eggs from one place to another, and doing a hundred other things that only an ant could understand. But, if we tossed a pebble among them, then the orderly peaceful routine of life ended at once. They would race frantically, helter-skelter in all directions and as far as one could see all purpose, order, and plan had vanished from their presence and confusion reigned supreme. Their little insect community became a picture of modern Christendom with all its confusion and turmoil, its rushing hither and yon to make converts, its compassing land and sea to make proselytes in the vain imagination that anything being done for God is bound to be blessed of Him. But this is a great mistake and a very evil disease that has blinded the minds of men so that they see darkly, not comprehending the eternal purposes of God.
There is a vital lesson important above all else that men should learn as they walk with God. First and foremost they should learn that, when their relationship with God is right, they need to have no worry about their ministry. It will take care of itself. The man who walks with God will be directed by His guiding hand into the very task God has ordained should be accomplished by him. The man in whose heart dwells the spirit of sonship reverently repeats, “Abba, Father”, and he, walking in the knowledge and blessing of sonship, walks in the knowledge that God leads His sons. You are not responsible to the people. You are not duty bound to meet their demands. The only responsibility you have and the only responsibility I have is to do the will of our Father which is in heaven. There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, but to none of them was he sent save to a woman of Sarepta. And there were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha, but none was healed saving Naaman the Syrian.
Oh, that men would see first and foremost how great is the importance of their personal relationship with the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. This and this alone is the keynote of true success. “Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord; that walketh in His ways… Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee,” Psa. 128:1,2. Those who read the word of God should take heed to its precepts also. Did not God promise Abraham that his seed should be as innumerable as the stars of heaven and the sands by the sea for multitude? Did Abraham ever have the joy and satisfaction of seeing that promise fulfilled in his day? No, indeed, he did not. Through the dreary tiresome years of waiting he saw one son of promise and probably his grandson, Jacob. Surely at times his heavy spirit must have wondered if he had somewhere failed his God; but God had not said that he should look at evidences as no doubt, like other men, he was prone to do. When he was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the Almighty God (El Shaddai); walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Gen. 17:1
It may come as a great and blessed surprise to learn that it is much easier to please God than to please man. Whoever heard of any one who was able to walk before men and be perfect? Even Jesus Christ was not able to do that. As for me, I never bother trying. But before God we can walk and be perfect. The man who measures himself by himself or compares himself with other people will pass his life in the turmoil of continual disappointment, but the man who walks before God, seeking only to love Him and please the Father, will in turn receive His favor, being a beloved son in whom the Father is well pleased. To love God and obey Him is better than all burnt offerings and sacrifice, 1 Sam. 15:22, because “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear.” 1 John 4:18. Fear comes when we measure ourselves with men and walk before them. Love comes by walking before God and seeing ourselves in Christ. Rejoice not, therefore, that the devils are subject to you nor be moved by success or failure, be it little or much, but rejoice rather that your name is written in heaven and is familiar to the Father of us all.
There was, however, yet another group, a group of twelve men who were specially ordained to spend their time with the Lord Himself, seeing, hearing, and understanding secret things often hidden from all others. Many were the conversations Jesus had with these men. Many were the instructions and precepts He gave them. Full well the Saviour knew that upon their shoulders would fall the weight of the coming dispensation, for their ministry would form the foundation upon which would rise the superstructure of the true church. Their writings, their acts, and their sayings would be a shining light of inspiration for the whole age of the kingdom of heaven. These apostles were with Him on every special occasion. When important instruction was given, they heard it. When promises were made, they were the ones who heard and believed them. Of them it was written that men took notice of them because they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
I have never been able to give a satisfactory explanation as to why divine wisdom chose one among the twelve whom He knew beforehand to be a traitor. “Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He asked. Perhaps in this age we will never fully understand why Judas, the son of the devout Simon, should be a traitor, but one thought is most worthy of our consideration. It is this: A man’s relationship to Christ can never be judged by the miracles he performs nor by the apparent devotion of his preaching or teaching. Judas, like Peter or John, was among the miracle workers and rejoiced with the rest for the signs and wonders that had been wrought. Our relationship to Christ can never be judged by the works we do or by the company to which we belong. It reaches far, far beyond that. It is extremely difficult to find men who keep their own interests completely out of the picture and harder still to find men who have no interests of their own. Times without number we make the pitiful discovery that the smooth and oily words of seeming devotion, “should not this ointment have been sold and the proceeds given for the poor”, (cf. John 12:5), are in fact the words of a clever thief who slyly slips his sticky fingers into the purse. I have often said it before and will repeat it here. Never trust a man who has big plans for your money. The longer I walk with God the more thoroughly I am convinced that the Lord Himself will provide for every program that is born of Him and He will stand by those who trust in Him. What impertinence it is for men to boast of mountain moving faith while they stand before audiences begging for money to carry out their projects! That is not faith at all. There is neither jot nor tittle of faith in such a program. Such fraudulent knavery is no more faith when found in the pulpit than it is faith when it is found in the ragged mendicant on the street who extends his grimy hand to receive our pittance. The only true difference is that one man is polished while the other is grubby and what the beggar calls “bumming” the other calls “faith”.
Never put your confidence in man regardless of who that man may be, no, not even if that man is yourself. The apostle Paul once said that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God that raiseth the dead. I have no good reason to have more confidence in myself than in another. The eleven apostles were shaken by the knowledge that one among them could be a traitor, and each in turn questioned, “Lord, is it I?” Matt. 26:22. Let not your heart be troubled over any of these things. “Ye believe in God; believe also in Me” is the divine exhortation.
Close, indeed, were the twelve to Jesus and great was the trust He bestowed upon them. Yet it is clearly evident that there was a group even among the twelve who abode closer to the heart of Christ than the others. These were Peter, who after the bitter lesson of his denial was renamed Cephas, which means a stone, and the brothers James and John, whom Jesus called Boanerges, which by interpretation means “the sons of thunder.” Perhaps we cannot fully explain why this inner circle of three was closer to Him than the others, but, knowing that the Lord looks not on outward appearance but upon the heart, we may be sure it was the man within He loved and not the frailties that appeared on the surface. Why did God say, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau had I hated”? The answer does not lie in the outward appearance, but in the heart. To the outward appearance it would seem that Esau was a more likable man than Jacob. The neighbors did not think of him as a stingy crook, a cheat, or a supplanter as they may have thought of Jacob. The question finds its answer, not in outward appearance, but in the knowledge of where their interests truly lie. To Esau the promises of God, the gifts and the birthright were worth less than a hearty meal of pottage for the physical man, but to Jacob the birthright was the only thing of value. He was willing to risk both life and limb to attain it and this in his human ignorance he did. So, while the other nine disciples vainly struggled with the demon at the foot of the mountain, these three men stood with Jesus in the glory realm. Matt. 17:1-16. When Jesus went to raise the dead girl to life, He took with Him Peter, James, and John. Mark 5:37. Even in the garden of Gethsemane it was Peter and James and John whom He took a little farther than the rest. Matt. 26:37.
We cannot, however, close this thought until we have noted that even among the three there was one still closer than the other two. As John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, laid his head upon Christ’s shoulder at supper, Jesus whispered a secret to him that was not heard by anyone else at the table. “He it is to whom I shall give this sop when I have dipped it”. John 13:23-26. And when all the disciples forsook Him and fled, the disciple whom Jesus loved was standing in Pilate’s hall of judgment with the Christ, who was more than life to him. John 18:15. He was there among the little group who stood at the foot of the cross when Jesus died; and unto John Jesus committed the care of Mary, His now widowed mother, with these words: “Woman, behold thy son!” And to John, “Behold thy mother!” John 19:26, 27
You may have wondered why John in his epistles declares truths hard to understand. For instance, he says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8. Then in vivid contrast he writes, “Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not.” 1 John 3:6. The secret is that John was not writing or speaking from the outer court of Christian experience nor yet from the holy place, but John in experience dwelt with Christ in the holy of holies. In one sentence he describes the condition of Christians who dwell in a spiritual outer court where, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and in the next sentence he describes the blessed state of those who abide in Him and sin not. It is no great wonder that Jesus said of him, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” This was the special word concerning this beloved man who had learned to dwell in God. John 21:22. Need we marvel that it was John who was chosen to behold and relate the intrinsic glories laid down for our learning in the book of Revelation?
It is clearly evident that among the disciples of the Lord there were wheels within wheels and circles within circles that separated those who dwelt in the outer court of experience from those in the holy place, and these in turn from those who dwelt with Him in the holy of holies. The vast multitude followed Him because they saw miracles or because they ate of the loaves and fishes, enjoying the temporary satisfaction of a “mess of pottage” as Esau. From the multitude came forth the five hundred who followed much closer, hearing His words, seeking His works, and believing His promises. From their midst the seventy were sent forth and the twelve who continued with Him; and from the twelve came forth the three and from the three the one. It is your relationship in the love of Christ that makes all the difference. Your participation in Him and your identification with Him is the glory of which Christ spoke when He said, “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them.” John 17:22. Religious denominations are but chaff that the wind driveth away. Sects and groups are naught but dust and ashes. What things were formerly gain to us now are counted loss for Christ that we might be found in Him.
The fact that men stand in various relationships to God is not only seen by the examples we have given but is a truth clearly taught by the apostles and by the Lord Himself. Paul describes a time when we were “enemies of God”, when we were “hateful and hating one another”, but exults in the blessed assurance that we were made nigh by the blood of Christ. There was a time when Jesus looked upon His disciples as servants, but saw their relationship advance beyond the somewhat austere relationship of servants to the warmth and comradeship of friends. “Henceforth I call you not servants,” He said, “for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.” John 15:15. It is blessed to be called a servant of Christ and twice blessed is he who, as Abraham, is called His friend! Yet it is with reverence and holy awe that we read that our Lord after His resurrection no longer referred to His disciples as servants or as friends, but, being raised to life and immortality, He commanded, “Go to My brethren, and say, I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” John 20:17. See also Matt. 28:10
Since, then, His Father is our Father and His God is our God, now are we as brothers to Him and sons of God. To the inspired writers of the New Testament the inspiration was given to emphasize the excellent worth of our sonship in Him. The sonship company has been in the process of gestation during the entire dispensation of grace. Jesus Christ, the head and firstborn, was first to appear and, since that blessed day of manifestation, the other sons of the same body have been in the process of formation. The shoulders, the arms, the belly, the legs, and now finally the beautiful feet ready for the washing are coming forth from the virgin womb. The picture is almost complete and one like unto the Son of man is rising to stand among the candlesticks. His head and His hair are white like wool, His eyes as a flame of fire. His breast is girt about with a golden girdle. His feet are as brass in a white, hot furnace. His voice is as the voice of a multitude, even a multitude of sons. The visage of the glory of His countenance is as the sun shining in his strength, and out of His mouth goes the sharp two-edged sword of truth to smite all nations with conviction and repentance, for the sword is the word of God.
King Solomon, his heart bathed in inspiration, beheld the day when the bride of Christ would be compete. In his prophetic and beautifully poetic pronouncement this scene appears: “There are threescore queens and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.” Songs of Sol. 6:8, 9 Here again circles within circles appear — virgins without number, women not married; fourscore concubines, women married, but not wives in the truest sense; sixty queens, all wives of the king; and then the final beloved one. My beloved, My Shulamite, is but one.
O, Thou whom my soul lovest, show me where Thou feedest Thy flock that I may be Thy brother and with Thee a son of God, and Thou mightest be the first-born of many brethren and the oldest in a vast family of sons!
FAITH AND PATIENCE
“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb. 6: 12.) Faith and Patience! What wonderful words these are! I wonder how many of God’s dear children know that faith and patience walk hand in hand. Has it not been the thought in the minds of most of us that if one has faith he will not need to wait for anything? He will be able to touch some magic stream of blessing that will immediately bring to pass the thing he desired. He will not have to wait or be patient but triumphantly carry away the answer to his prayer. If God answers prayer immediately, then let His name be praised. If on the other hand years should go by and death should come while the promise is still afar off, know this: His promise is still certain and His word is sure.
As you walk through life with God, the passing years change many things. The song writer said, “Change and decay in all around I see.” Men change, customs change, ways of doing things change. That which was new yesterday is withered and old today. Boys of yesteryear are the men of today and the ancients of tomorrow.
Moths corrupt the garments and rust eats the things of iron. Thieves break in and steal the priceless gems. Time withers with age even the stoutest things and makes of the mighty Hercules a tottering old man.
The change in all we see is decadent. The strong become weak, the mighty fall, the great things decay and return to dust. That is because the things that are seen are temporal. There are some things, however, which do not change from strong to weak and from beauty to ashes. They grow from weak to strong and from nothingness to omnipotence. These are the things that are not seen. They are the eternal things. God does not change but all that He is and does grows greater. His love does not decrease and become imperfect. It increases until that which was great yesterday is beyond compare tomorrow. His patience and longsuffering do not decrease and finally run out, but they grow greater and shine brighter through thousands of years of trial in bearing the reproaches of the ungodly. The man who sees God as an Almighty being who some day will run out of patience and in raging passion send His wrath upon a disobedient creation does not understand God nor His purpose in permitting a sinful creation to exist. Perhaps we have forgotten that all things were made by Him and for Him, that all things are for His glory and bring glory to Him. God is adding to His power, increasing His love, extending His patience, and perfecting further His longsuffering. Our puny idea of perfection is a cut and dried affair to which nothing can be added. Such a thing is static and dead. God’s idea of perfection is manifest in His creation. The baby boy is admired by all as a “perfect child”, but the perfect child of today learns to talk a year from now. He grows in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.
Thus it is that God increases our faith through patience. At first what faith you had was void of patience. It wanted to see creation leap in response to its impatient demands. The sick must be healed right now. The world must be converted right now. We must get rid of carnality and become perfect now, of course; but as years went by and things continued much as they were before we tried to set the world on fire, we began very slowly to see that God is not enthused about impatient faith; we came to see that faith and patience are inseparable and methinks someday we will see that patience is faith. We have heard a great deal about faith, much of it springing from the desire of the carnal mind. Little indeed have we heard of patience without which there can be no real and lasting faith.
I am deeply impressed with the words of Jesus Christ as found in Luke 8:15. The Master was telling them of the sower and the seed and upon explaining the parable to them ended thus: “But that on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” What was it that caused the seed, which fell on stony ground and among the thorns to fail to bring forth a harvest? Was it just a lack of faith? No, I do not think so. There must have been some faith, otherwise they would never have started. They would have been like the seed, which fell by the roadside. It would have been carried away without taking root at all. No, the trouble was not with faith entirely. The difficulty was there was no patience and consequently no endurance.
Harvests do not come without patience and waiting. Vainly we have tried to squeeze God into our mold of haste and hurry. We have cried, wept, and teased like spoiled children in an endeavor to get our way and hurry God in His program. We have demanded of God and tried to command Him. We have quoted scriptures to try to bolster our position but all in vain. To learn faith in patience is much more important than for us to have our own way about things.
In Heb. 10: 35-37 the apostle wrote, “Cast not away therefore your confidence which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while and He that shall come will come and will not tarry.”
It is never difficult to find a multitude of folk who will eagerly embrace new revelation and truth. They will carry the palm branches and shout Hosanna in chorus with the multitude. They will thrill to the revelation and proclaim their undying consecration from the house tops. “I’m going through” will be the theme of their song. Enthusiasm knows no bounds as they proclaim the wonders of the message to their friends. One would think surely there never would be a declension in such unfaltering devotion. But wait a little while. Let a few days drift into weeks. Let weeks enlarge themselves into months and months embrace years. The glow has gone from their testimony. No more is their voice lifted up on high. The enthusiasm is dissolved. We search for them among the depleted ranks of the faithful and they are not found. They have returned as a dog to his vomit and a sow to her wallowing in the mire. What has happened? Time has leveled them. Their patience has given way to disgust and despair. Because they could not hurry God or speed His promise, they lost all confidence and faith in it and returned again to feed on husks never more to hear His voice or have their eyes enlightened to His unfolding truth.
God is not interested in a vast multitude of people. He knows how impatient we all are. Well does He know that a few months of waiting for the promise will eliminate the vast majority of those who started on the journey, and a few years will wear out the patience of all but a few faithful pilgrims who have cast their anchors within the vail. The joy and anticipation of the prize lends them strength and fortitude. Nightly they pitch their moving tent a day’s march nearer home as they rise on the stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things.
There are many wonderful truths to embrace, endless revelation to inspire and thrill the heart of man, but he will never enter into any of it without patience even to wait till the shadows lengthen on life’s day. He may as well return to his husks now, for he will never receive the promise. Should the bloom fade from youth and the strength of manhood weaken till tired old hands are lifted upward to His own, yea, should life’s silver thread break and love’s eternal ray guide him to his everlasting home, still the promise is true for, when God awakens those who sleep in Him, he will walk in life’s eternal reality.
The promises of God are vast and varied. Some of them are free and can be attained very easily. That is why so many people receive them. But if we would be sons of God and receive the life that raised Jesus from the dead, if we would learn the authority and government of God in preparation to take the kingdom and reign with Christ, then that is a different thing altogether. We must become followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises of God.
If we are going to be sons of God, it is not enough to have a saved soul. We must have a saved body as well. The final redemption of the body brings us to full sonship. If you read Rom. 8:18-23, you will see how true this is. I would like to quote it here as recorded in Phillip’s translation. (Romans 8:18-23) “In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared to the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tip-toe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind but because God’s purpose has been so limited. Yet it has been given hope and the hope is that in the end the whole creation will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay and have its share in the magnificent liberty that can only belong to the children of God. It is plain for anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension while we wait for that redemption of our bodies, which will mean that at last we have realized full sonship in Him.” Now is that not a wonderful thing? The life we now seek is the redemption of our bodies and that means “full sonship”. Let us quote the rest of the passage now and see where patience comes in. “We are saved by hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down and wait for it in patience”.
Hope means “waiting for something we have not received.” We know for sure that we will receive it, but we have not yet received it. That is why the scripture says, “We are saved by hope.” but hope that is seen is not hope, for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we do not see, then we with patience wait for it. Hope and patience then go hand in hand.
I am writing these things because it is easy for some, if not all of us, to begin to run well but be hindered because we find the promise of God to be much further away than we had thought at first. Consequently patience runs out and men lose heart because the journey is long and the climb is very steep.
I still have vivid recollections of climbing a mountain at Banff, Alberta. The mountain towered seven thousand feet into the sky. A rough foot path zigzagged its way through rocks and streams and trees to its summit. We were all anxious for the climb and set out with eager anticipation. Many others set out ahead of us and were well up the mountain before we started. The first half hour or so of the climb was easy, but as time wore on it became more difficult. The mountain seemed to be steeper. Limbs began to ache and as the air became thinner with height, breathing became more difficult. In all the climb it was never possible to see the summit. We felt sure that every bend in the path would be the final one. Surely we must be near the top. It could not be much farther now, but we were unpleasantly surprised to find a sign telling us we had now reached the half way mark. That was discouraging and, being tired, it would have seemed well to return. We did not, however, and plodded on, quenching our thirst at mountain streams, sitting down to rest and enjoy the view from the height we had gained.
It was not long before we began to meet people coming back. We inquired of them about the climb but their answers were all adverse. Had they reached the top? Most of them answered, no. As we came within a thousand feet of the pinnacle, I well remember the path was not well beaten. Not too many feet had walked upon it till at one spot we lost it altogether. Finally we came to journey’s end to feast our eyes on scenes far and wide. Mountains, which had seemed huge from the valley below now appeared as little hills. Stretching far and wide in all directions were peaks innumerable, many of which had never felt the tread of human feet. There was one sobering thought, however. Though we had climbed so high and were thrilled with the glory of things about us, we discovered there were mountain peaks all about us much higher than where we now stood. Some were three and four thousand feet above our level. Between us and them lay vast valleys, steep descents and precipitous climbs. There are always peaks beyond our highest attainments. To reach them we must descend in consecration and prayer. Our channels must be unstopped by fasting and weights must be cast off with the sins which easily beset us.
It takes patience to reach the summit. It takes endurance, too. No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of heaven.
We do not attain sonship by a single bound. Neither do we enter into that life which is the redemption of our bodies in a moment of time. Ye have need of patience. We must through faith and patience inherit the promise.
Did you know that God, our heavenly Father, is called “the God of patience?” Rom. 15:5. Is that not a wonderful thing? But the passage does not end there for it says, “The God of all patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded”. May we truly be like Him.
Since God is a God of patience, it is impossible to imagine that He would require something less in those who are becoming His sons. If all those who read these lines and rejoice in these truths would but quietly meditate upon the infinite goodness of God in that He has called us to share with Him His eternal purposes, then we would gladly bow our necks to His yoke and willingly spend a whole life-time if by so doing the patience of God could be wrought in our own souls. But what has become of the patience and faith of the saints? What has happened to the people of God who embrace with assurance the eternal promises of the word of God, only to lose their grip upon those promises and cast them recklessly away because they do not see them immediately fulfilled? Their faith may have been very good to start with, but there was need of patience that after they had patiently endured they might receive the promise.
How often our hearts have thrilled as we have read the wonderful accounts of faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews! As we read those thrilling stories, our hearts always leap in anticipation of the possibilities of faith. “Oh,” we sigh, “if only we had the faith of Moses, or Abraham, or Elijah, or could we like the three Hebrews walk unscathed in the fiery furnace, or could we like Daniel stand unharmed in the den of lions!” And on and on we go, foolishly imagining in our minds that these people were in some way created different from ourselves, that they were given a kind of head start and were not subject to the handicaps that blight our progress. But this is really not so. These men and women of whom the Spirit speaks in such glowing terms were men and women of like passions as we are. They were not different from you or me. The only difference was that they took the matter of their calling more seriously than most of us do, and much more seriously than the rank and file of people in their own day, who as a majority walked as we walk. If we settle down to patiently follow the promises God has made to His elect and chosen, we, too, will attain the inheritance even as they.
It would seem that one of the most outstanding and shining examples of faith the world has ever known was that patient, slow-going pilgrim, Abraham. He was not a prophet, nor a priest, nor a worker of miracles. He was a cattle man. We would have called him a rancher. When God called him to “come out”, he came out, not knowing where to go, but “looking for a city that had foundations whose builder and maker was God.” He could not see the city with his natural eyes. He could see it only by faith with the eyes of his spirit. God had promised him that every place whereon the sole of his foot should tread would be his, but it never came to pass during his life time. Surely there must have been moments when he wondered about the promises of God. Had he mistaken the voice of God? Or had he failed along the way somewhere? If these promises were true, why was he destitute of both houses and lands and forever dwelling in tents and among strangers.
Then there was the promise that his seed would be as the stars of the heaven and as the sand of the sea for number. What had become of these promises that at one time had quickened his step and made his heart beat wildly with anticipation? Where was the promise of God? Yea, where was God, who seemed at times to hide His face from him and cause the promise to mock him? He walked through the shadow of temptation just as you or I so often do. He knew what it was to wonder. He knew the disappointment of having days lengthen into years, years into decades, and decades into a century with still no sign of the fulfillment of the promise. He knew what it was to have men jest about his name, Abraham, which meant father of a multitude, but none of these things moved him. They may have discouraged him at times. They may have made him wonder; but there was that ever present urge of faith within that kept him plodding along in the direction God had shown him.
May I share with you now a little revelation about faith that has been a great blessing to me through life. It is based on one verse of scripture – Heb. 1:13. This is what it says: “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 in the earth.” As we read this strange passage of scripture, which seems so contradictory to our past traditions concerning faith, six great elements of faith stand boldly out for all to see, teaching us a lesson, not only of faith, but also of those two great brothers of faith, patience and endurance.
Let us then divide this verse to see these six great elements of faith.
1. These all died in faith.
2. Not having received the promises.
3. But having seen then afar off.
4. And were persuaded of them.
5. And embraced them.
6. And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth.
We shall not become involved now in a dissertation on this verse, for the lessons it teaches would fill not only this book but many more besides. But it would be a disrespect to the truths contained herein not to briefly mention the gravity of their meaning.
Firstly: Men of faith do not always live long enough on the earth to see their faith fully realized, for these all died in faith. What a blessing it would be to us all if we could but see that the planting of a seed is just as important an act as garnering the harvest, for, while the harvest is much greater than the seed, yet without the seed that fell into the ground and died there would be no harvest at all, but only barren soil. Why do we not look beyond our frail earthly life with its pitiful failures to see the end of our faith in the ages yet to come? Have you not read the words of the prophet who spoke of Jesus Christ the Saviour who died, despised and rejected of men, filled with sorrow and acquainted with grief, and how God the Father looked into the unborn ages and “saw the travail of His soul and was satisfied”! Isa. 53:11. When therefore we believe the promise of God, we must count the dead as though they lived and believe that God is not the God of dead men but of living men, even as He said: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. If the promise of God to a man could be lost just because that man should die before he saw its fulfillment, then God would not be worthy to be called faithful and true. Those who receive and believe the promise of God will never be robbed of its attainment though death should walk the path between the promise and the fulfillment. “These all died in faith.”
Secondly: “Not having received the promises.” Oh, how often we have cruelly rebuked men for their lack of faith just because they were unable to receive a promise the moment we thought they should! Why have we never learned that God is more interested in purifying and building our confidence and trust in Him through patience and longsuffering than He is in giving us a pittance in answer to our begging? The alms we give to the beggar at the gate may be given without hesitation or consideration, but the provision we make for our children is a matter of life long concern. Can we expect less from our heavenly Father, who knows us not as beggars at the gate but as sons and daughters ordained by Him to share His eternal attributes? While we imagine that true faith will always touch some magic spring of blessing that will immediately give us the promise, the Holy Spirit is teaching us that faith is still faith and always abides the same though all should die, not having received the promise.
Thirdly: “Having seen them afar off.” The spiritual eye has a good tendency to be far-sighted. It has that wonderful, strange, divine quality of being able to see things that are afar off and, better still, things that are invisible. Moses endured as seeing Him who is invisible. Heb. 11:27. Abraham looked for a city, which his natural eye could not behold. He knew it was there for he could see it afar off in his spirit. Therefore his whole life was devoted to pressing toward it and it shall be his reward eternally.
It is right here that so many of us fail. We catch a glimpse of the transcending wonder of the promise of God and we set out joyfully to reach the goal. But the hills and valleys that lie before us hide the promise from our eyes. The drifting snows have buried our path and caused our feet to stumble, while the burning desert sands choked us with thirst and prepared our tomb. Earthborn clouds ever rise to hide the promise from our eyes, but it is here as nowhere else that faith walks hand in hand and step in step with patience. While faith has power to believe, patience has power to wait and endure, and we shall through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Have you ever gone through some outstanding experience, which, after it was past, seemed as though it had never really happened? How often we hear folk say, “It just seems like a dream to me,” or “I can hardly believe I was ever there,” or “I can scarcely believe that it ever happened.” We all have experiences like that. Strangely enough we are inclined to be creatures of the present and sometimes of the past, but we are seldom creatures of the future. For this very reason men and women who have seen by faith that which is afar off are inclined to doubt the reality of the promise they saw, as they pass through the wilderness of sin, the fiery furnace, or the lion’s den. Those who are far-sighted enough to see that which is afar off will never be darlings of the world, and by the world of religion and tradition they will be regarded as visionaries, mystics, fanatics, and fools. But happy indeed is the man who can see the promise of God though it be very far off.
Fourthly: “They were persuaded of them.” It was the apostle Paul who said, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded … 2 Tim. 1:12, but it was King Agrippa who uttered that pitiful though memorable phrase, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” It is one thing to see a thing whether it be near or far off, but it is another thing altogether to be fully persuaded about it. It is those who are only half persuaded that return as dogs to their vomit and as sows to their wallowing in the mire. Bunyan saw in his vision that, as Christian and Pliable journeyed toward the Celestial City, both of them fell into the horrible slough of despond. But he also saw that, though they both struggled out of the slime and the filth, Pliable climbed out the same side he fell in – nearest the City of Destruction – while Christian got out on the opposite side of the slough, nearest to the Celestial City. So, you see, it is not our falling into the slough, into the fire, or anything else that counts. The thing that counts is on which side we climb out. All those who see a promise afar off should be firmly persuaded of it before they start the journey, for only God knows the precipitous climbs and the dismal valleys that lie ahead.
Personally, I am very glad that I did not know all the things that lay ahead when I began this journey years ago. God in wonderful grace hid from my eyes the pitfalls and discouragements that were to bedevil the path that He had prepared for my feet. I knew practically nothing then of my own weaknesses and inherent sin. I did not know that of all the anit-christs I would meet the greatest and fiercest of them all was within me, even that carnal mind which is an eternal enemy of God. I knew nothing of the half-heartedness of many people, nor that treachery, envy, deceit, and betrayal would be found in the hearts of those who walked in company with me to the house of the Lord. Be all these things as they may, but if we are going to gain the prize and lay hold on the pearl of great price which lies at the journey’s end, we are going to have to be fully persuaded of the reality of the prize for which we seek.
Are we fully persuaded that God is calling us to sonship? Are we sufficiently persuaded about Zion to earnestly press toward it? Are we sufficiently persuaded about Babylon, the Mother of harlots, to come out of her and be joined to Christ and to Him alone? Are we fully persuaded about the eternal purpose of God? Persuaded enough, I mean, to abandon all else and cling only to that? Oh, how often we meet men and women on the way back. They become impatient about the road that leads to Zion‘s hill, so back they go to Babylon‘s tottering tower. They lose patience and can no longer believe that the vision they saw is sure and the promise immutable. They start thinking and reasoning in the natural and human wisdom tells them to forget the promise of God and return, so back they go. Can we not hear the voice of Jesus saying, “He that putteth his hand to the plow and looketh back is not fit for the kingdom?’ And again, “Remember Lot‘s wife.”
No looking back; just forward to glory,
With joyous hope and glad expectant face
To find, when He unfolds life’s finished story,
Wealth, wealth unfading and an honored place.
Let us then be fully persuaded concerning these promises of God, and, being persuaded, let us lay aside every weight and run with patience the race that is set before us.
Fifthly: “They embraced them.” To embrace is to enfold in the arms, to clasp and to hug. Ah! What a picture that is! What a sermon in that one word! Is this not truly the way that the elect of God must lay hold on the promise they have seen, to embrace it, to enfold it, and to hug it that none of the jolting experiences of life can tear it from them? “Holdfast that which is good,” said Paul. 1 Thess. 5:21. “We are made partakers of Christ if we hold fast the confidence firm to the end.” Heb. 3:6. Hold fast the confidence! Holdfast the profession of your faith! Holdfast that which thou hast that no man take thy crown!
We may not think these things are important nor that they apply to us, but they do. It was Esau who held his birthright so loosely that he sold it for a mess of pottage and, though he afterward saw his mistake and sought the blessing earnestly with tears, yet he was rejected. This same mistake is repeated in the lives of Christians every living day. Not that they are not saved, but that they hold the promises that lie before them so loosely that they relinquish them for love of some paltry thing that can become their possession here and now. It was Demas who departed from Paul, having loved this present world. So in his love for the visible he lost sight of the invisible, and in his desire for the passing he lost the permanent. Let us be exhorted then to embrace the promises, for that is an element of faith. Let us lay hold of the vision before us and it shall be our joy and crown eternally.
Finally: “They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth.” If this were always our testimony and our attitude, we could save ourselves whole worlds of trouble. Is it not true that our whole attitude in life portrays that we live our lives as though we were going to remain here forever and live on and on as we are? We are so much like the rich man who said, “I will tear down my barns and build greater and there I will bestow all my goods, and I will say to my soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up in store for many years. Take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But our attitude should not be the attitude of the citizens of this age. Our attitude should be the attitude of pilgrims who are passing through this fleeting age to the realm of their true citizenship. Visitors to foreign lands seldom invest in things they cannot carry with them, but we who have our citizenship in heaven are forever getting our affections bound up with the earth as though we were citizens of it. This ought not to be.
Though we might pass lightly over this final statement of faith, we may be sure that, before we can ever find the faith and patience that will bring us to the promise, we must have this confession within ourselves – that we are strangers and pilgrims in the earth. Though we may give this testimony to those about us, yet the true testimony is given when we speak the truth inwardly in our own heart. Our declarations before men count for little. God requires truth in the inward parts.
“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience that after ye have done the will of God ye might receive the promise.“ Heb. 10:35–36
While we journey on this pilgrimage to God’s great calling of sonship, there are many questions that must go completely unanswered. We must all learn that the effectiveness of the thing God is doing is not necessarily hindered by our lack of perfect understanding. Our faith and trust in God’s purposes shine with increasing brilliance because we trust and believe in that which we do not see. But we do see promise with the eye of the spirit and we do hear it with the ear of faith. We believe, because God has said it, it is so and believing we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Thomas once said, “Except I shall see the prints of the nails in His hands and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.” But Christ appeared to him and said, “Reach hither thy hand and thrust it into My side, and be not faithless, but believing”; and when his wavering faith was strengthened, the Savior thus reproved him, “Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed; blessed is he who has not seen and yet has believed.”
We are not able to explain, for we do not understand, why the blessed Father has seen such infinite value in the virtue He calls patience, but the value is there and He deems it not wasted time to spend a life-time in its cultivation. We should, therefore, take more earnest heed to it, for there is evidently some wonderful unseen value in patience that brings the believer to a realm of perfection that only God knows and understands. We all have surely read this exhortation: “Let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Jas. 1:4. Why not stop reading right here and consider this verse long and earnestly, for it speaks more truth in one brief statement than I can say in many a word. I know of no other spiritual virtue about which such potent words are spoken. The work of patience is perfect and entire. Those who possess it want nothing. It is ordained of God to operate in my life and yours because its work brings the excellence of perfection into our lives. Therefore he says, “Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect.” Paul once said, “Not as though I had attained, either were already perfect…” No doubt his patience was being tried to the very limit, but the very trial he was patiently enduring was that which was hastening his perfection. The Holy Spirit exhorts us all to be “followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
We are living in an impatient world. Everywhere people are in a desperate rush. Undue pressure caused by hurry and worry of business is causing hearts to fail on every hand. We live in a horn-tooting, light-crashing, speed-breaking impatient age. Bad as this may be, it is even worse to find that the same restless spirit that is in the world has been carried into the realm of religion as well. Everywhere men are trying to hurry Gods program. Hurry! Hurry!! Hurry!!! They hurry because the end is near, hurry because this may be the last opportunity, hurry because communism will engulf the world, hurry because of the population explosion, and hurry because of the threat of nuclear war. But we will find eventually that God cannot be hurried. We will have to learn that, long, long before God made the earth, He foreknew all these circumstances that exist today and ordained them as part of His own will and purpose for the time of the end. All those who are in such a desperate haste will find eventually that their efforts have not altered the course of the world at all. The nations of the earth are as rivers of water and God orders their courses as He wills. They are as dust in the balances that He brushes off at His pleasure. He raises them up and puts them down as He pleases. What help will it be for me to try to extinguish a fire that He has kindled or to relight a fire that He has extinguished? I have but one responsibility in life, and that is to listen to His voice and walk according to His eternal purpose.
When we see the haste and impatience of Christians as they drown their lives in religious activity, we would surely think that God had fallen asleep and needed to be awakened or that things had gotten beyond His control and He needed impatient and desperate men to save Him from being overwhelmed. God has no such need. He is seeking only men who see His purpose and walk in faith and patience toward it. It should be clear for all to see that, if patience works perfection, then impatience is bound to have the opposite effect.
Now notice that tribulation worketh patience, patience worketh experience, experience worketh hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. Rom. 5:3-5. Consider well these successive steps that rise like the rungs of a giant ladder from the desolation of tribulation to the glory of that plane where the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. Tribulation! Patience! Experience! Hope! Not ashamed! The love of God! Heaven is not reached by a single bound, But we build the ladder by which we rise From the lowly earth to the vaulted skies, And we mount its summit round by round. People bowed down with care and tribulation often write to tell of their sorrow and heartache. My heart goes out to them in sympathy and often we kneel together in prayer and pray for men and women who are feeling the crushing load of trouble and despair. But, though we fervently pray for them, yet so often it is well nigh impossible to ask God to remove their tribulation, for He who sees the steps that lead to perfection and sonship certainly knows that tribulation worketh patience, patience worketh experience, experience worketh hope and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. We dare not and must not hinder God’s refining processes, for they are bringing us to perfection and sonship. I asked for life and this is what He gave me; My lot is hard, my tears flow like the rain. I asked for hours gay with sunshine spattered, But lo! my waking hours are filled with pain. How could I know that crushing brings the fragrance Like perfume from some crushed and bleeding rose, That in the process of my better making God used the methods He approved and chose? “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it until he received the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh … Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” Jas. 5:7, 8, 10, 11
There are times when despair and hopelessness stalk our pathway like ravening wolves seeking to destroy our hope, but in such times of tribulation we hear the words of promise ringing o’er the tumult of our strife. “Cast not away your confidence which has great recompense of reward, for ye have need of patience that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promises. For yet a little while and He that shall come will come and will not tarry.” Heb. 10: 35-37. And again He says, “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Heb. 6:12
Since the world began there has never been a more important hour than the one in which we now live. For six thousand years the whole creation has groaned in travail waiting and waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. Not only does the creation and every form of created life wait and groan for that glorious hour, but we who are being prepared for sonship also groan and sigh, waiting for that hour of redemption which will mean that at last we have attained full sonship. Everywhere the groaning creation is sending its heart-breaking sighs up to God. Every physical pain is a sigh to God for deliverance. Every drop of blood shed in war is a groan for universal peace and justice. Every typhoon, tornado, or hurricane is nature’s cry for deliverance. Every crime committed, every death endured, every starved and famished body, and every broken home is creation’s plaintive prayer to the Creator for the manifestation of His sons, for they will deliver the world from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children.
It seems to me that Romans 8:18-28 is the very core and heart of the entire plan and purpose and will of God. Sonship is the theme of that magnificent fiat. The apostle emphatically declares that every created thing is patiently expecting and awaiting the manifestation of the sons of God, for this and this alone is their deliverance. Even the sons of God themselves groan within themselves, longing to come to full sonship, and this also is the prayer of the Holy Spirit who helps our infirmities, enabling us to pray according to the will of God. The suffering of this present age is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us; neither is it to be compared with the boundless deliverance that will come to all creation through the sons of God. Oh, that God would open the eyes of His people who have believed on His name that they might leave their hopeless paths of tradition and their human ways of looking at things and begin to fall in step with the eternal purpose that is laid out so beautifully before our eyes. Since so much depends on our entering into the glory of that sonship which He first ordained when He said, “Let Us make man in Our image and after Our likeness, and let Us give him dominion …,” we should therefore strip ourselves of every weight to run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
It would not be right to finish this article without a few more words of exhortation. We have heard many wonderful things from the heart of God in the past few months. If you will take time to consider the light and understanding God has given you, you will surely agree that the Lord is opening the eyes of His people to turn them from darkness to light. He is giving them understanding in the things that have been hidden from ages and dispensations. The eternal purposes that have been locked up in His mind and kept secret from the foundation of the world are being gradually unfolded before our wondering eyes, for the time is at hand when all men must see how great and wonderful are the mysteries reserved for the end of this age.
While we remain as children, many things are purposely kept secret from us. It has to be that way. We do not tell our little children about our plans and purposes. We do not trust them with responsibility nor laugh at them because of their ignorance. So also it is in our relationship with God. While we are children, God deals with us as with children. He patiently waits as we grow to maturity and expects very little of us except obedience. But the hour of maturity and sonship finally comes — the hour He planned from the beginning of the world. When that long-awaited hour comes, God begins to reveal to His sons the things that concern His purpose for the government of the world and the universe in the fullness of time.
The childish traditions of the church have clouded men’s minds with darkness and have hung a vail of blindness over their eyes. The things that are really important we cannot see and the things that are not important are magnified to the heavens. I have actually had men tell me that to put emphasis on sonship is selfishness. Instead of emphasizing sonship, they say, we should be up and doing and trying to bring the world to Christ. I really have no argument with any man about such things, but when I read in Romans 8 that the whole creation — man, animals, birds, fish, vegetable life, and even the elements — is groaning in travail for the hour when they will be delivered from their dreadful night of bondage by the sons of God, then how can I or any man be so ignorant and short-sighted as to condemn those who see the purpose of God in sonship and who press toward it with all their strength? Not only is creation groaning for this most important of all events, but the Spirit also helps our infirmity and gives to us that spirit by which we are able to say, “Abba Father.” The spirit that cries, “Abba Father,” is indeed the spirit of sonship, for who else can cry “Our Father” but he who is a son of God?
Let us then be careful that we do not become as Israel in the wilderness who, finding the way slow and hard, became discouraged and in their hearts turned back again to Egypt. I am absolutely convinced that no man will ever attain to sonship until his faith and patience and endurance have been tried to the very limit. I feel I have the mind of the Lord when I say that God is going to shake everything in heaven and in earth so that all things that can be shaken will be shaken and will fall out and go back that only the people who cannot be shaken may remain. We may have brought the idea with us from the traditions of the past that God will turn Himself inside out to coax us along to sonship, but I cannot see any scripture anywhere to substantiate such a claim. Every evidence is that “if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to return.” Heb. 11:15. It is just the same now as it was then. Those who become weary with the journey and the difficulties of the way will be given opportunity to return to their old orders and their old traditions.
I have long been intrigued with the inspired statement of Paul in Rom. 8:29, 30. “Whom He did foreknow, He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son. Whom He did predestinate them He called, whom He called He justified, and whom He justified He glorified.” These are the steps on the stairway to sonship — foreknowledge, predestination, justification, and glorification. But we must give all diligence to make our calling and election sure, for we could turn back at each step. “And giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the age lasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. 1:5-11
To try to get the world converted in this age is not the most important thing, for God has reserved to Himself a day when all who sit in darkness shall see a great light and all shall know Him from the least to the greatest. He has ordained a day when no man shall say, “Know the Lord, “for all shall know Him, but in this age of grace He is calling out a people for His name. Acts 15:14-18. He is completing His body and perfecting His sons in preparation for the government of the world in the ages to come. Let no man deceive you then, for we cannot possibly over-estimate the tremendous importance of reaching forth to maturity and sonship.
Do not worry as to whether or not you seem to be making progress. There is nothing in the world that grows so fast that you can see it grow. Let God be judge of how much or how little you have grown. Your duty and mine is to press relentlessly onward heedless of circumstances or conditions, but pressing patiently toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
When the path ahead is rough,
And the rocks in ridge and bluff
Bar your progress to the distant peaks sublime;
When your strength and heart are breaking,
Take pride in the fight you’re making;
Throw your rope around a higher rock and climb!
“Be ye followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
THE ABIDING PRESENCE
“The course of bad men leads through darkness dim; they cannot see what makes them stumble. The course of good men, like a ray of dawn, shines on and on to the full light of day.” (Prov. 4:18, 19) (Moffatt) The burning truth that lies hidden in these words of inspiration is borne home to our hearts with ever increasing power as we see the lengthening shadows falling about us as sentinels, heralding the end of the age. It is not without purpose that the Holy Spirit has been directing our thoughts and bending our inmost nature toward a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord — a kinship in Him none but the elect in any age can know. All about us we see the paths of bad men leading them into ever increasing darkness while on the other hand the path of the just, shining more and more with the revealing light of truth, inspires our hearts to sing that gladsome song, “His lightnings enlighten the world: the earth saw and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.” Psa. 97:4, 5
God’s purpose in leading men out is that He might lead them in. The God and Father of Abraham led him out of Ur of the Chaldees that he might be led into a land that He would show him. Israel was led out of Egypt that the nation might be led into a land flowing with milk and honey. So now in our day! The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, who in ages past led them from Babylon and Egypt, is calling to a people enslaved by traditions and bound by sectarian chains of darkness to leave their prison house of confusion to walk in the presence of Jesus Christ, who is the head of the only true church in the universe, the church of the firstborn, the born again, whose names are emblazoned on the pages of the Book of Life — not with the fading ink from the pens of men, but with eternal Spirit of the living God.
During the short span of our sojourn here on earth thoughtful people, knowing that they must soon depart from this valley of the shadow of death, prepare their last will and testament for the benefit of loved ones who will be obliged to carry on after they are gone. Our last will and testament is not of force, however, until our eyes close in the dreamless sleep of death. Paul made reference to this fact when he said, “For where a testament (will) is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament (will) is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” Heb. 9:16, 17. During those memorable days in which our Lord Jesus Christ walked among men, He left for us a will so forceful, so strong and completely unalterable, that no power in the universe can change, alter, or destroy it. Hear now, ye partakers of His benefit, as He sets forth His eternal will for us in these immutable words of truth: “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24. And again: “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do. .. If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:13, 14. “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14:18. “If any man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” John 14:23. But the special promise which most concerns the message of the moment is this: “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John 14:16, 17. In these words our Lord gave us the explicit assurance that He would be present with us and in us all through the troublesome days of our earthly pilgrimage. It was of this abiding presence that David spoke, saying in Psa. 23, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.”
You have noticed that, when Jesus gave the promise that the Holy Spirit would abide with us forever, with great significance He added, “Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not.” The world as a whole and carnal Christians are usually ready to proclaim that seeing is believing. What they cannot see with their physical eyes they readily disbelieve, but the power that firmly holds our vessel through the raging storms of life is faith, the steadfast anchor of the soul. Heb. 6:19. So, while the world is confidently proclaiming, “Seeing is believing”, the word of faith is filling the universe with the victorious decree, “Believing is seeing!”
There is a power whose care
Teaches thy way along the pathless coast,
The desert and illimitable air,
Lone wandering but not lost.
He, who from zone to zone
Guides thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must walk alone
Will guide my steps aright.
The moment a Christian begins to see the invisible, hear the inaudible, and comprehend the incomprehensible, then his friends and neighbors call him mystical. “Much learning has made thee mad,” they say, or sympathetically they think he has gone soft in the head. But, while they amuse themselves with derogation, hoping to belittle and disparage, the truth must ever be confessed that those who share the mysteries of God must of necessity be mystics. “Great is the mystery of godliness,” saith the Lord, and to this my searching heart replies, “I shall be satisfied only when I awake in Thy likeness.” If this be mysticism, then with all my heart I am a mystic. The Holy Spirit whispers this truth to every believing heart: “The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God: Thou art the King of Israel,” cried the fervent Nathaniel as the eyes of his understanding were opened. And Jesus Himself, seeming to be amazed at such divine illumination, responded with this assurance, “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shall see greater things than these… Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” John 1: 49-51
The burning desire within my heart in this the end of the age is that God’s chosen people might with me become aware of the abiding presence of God. Several years ago one of my dearest friends wrote me a letter in which he spoke of the reality of the presence of God. I read his letter with interest, but the force of the truth did not then fully grip me. The letter was laid aside and the truth contained therein was almost forgotten until one early morning I dreamed a dream in which the presence of God descended upon me from heaven, increasing in wonder and power as it drew near. I awoke in ecstasy of spirit, breathing aloud the words, “How wonderful is the presence of God!” From that moment until now the blessed fact of His presence has often filled my meditation, and the truth which I now set before you conies with the earnest hope that all who read may henceforth walk with an ever increasing consciousness of the presence of Him who told us in words that cannot fail, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
For centuries men have spoken — some reverently, some carelessly — of walking in the presence of God; but it is indisputably true that such great statements of truth lose their sacred meaning by man’s constant and often flippant reiteration. Students of theology, poor souls, are usually first and foremost in this transgression. Poring over their musty volumes, they learn the arguments and proofs, which teach that God is almighty, but the almighty God Himself they do not know. They write their learned essays on the love of God, but the God of love is a stranger to their hearts. They themselves become ineffective and often vacillating and hypocritical because they have separated truth from the Person, knowing the law, but not the law giver, reciting the truth, but having no relationship with Him who is the truth. A lifetime of experience has taught me that it is possible for one to know all the arguments and possess all the answers, but still be a stranger to God. I testify to all, however, that, the moment any man begins to know Him, vast changes take place in his understanding, for to know Him is to be like Him. “We, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into that same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:18
The Holy Spirit, who proceeded forth from the Father, is not an influence, but a divine person, possessing personal names, personal attributes, personal qualities, personal offices, performing personal ministries and personal acts, and referred to by personal pronouns. I shall never be persuaded to descend to that valley of carnality where men delight to reason and debate about trinities and unities, for why should the fellowship of the saints, together with the joy of their friendship, be cruelly destroyed by debating these sacred things before whose mystery wise and holy angels bow their heads in silent awe? The man who seeks to argue about the Godhead has lost his sense of respect for the awful greatness of God. Yet be it known to one and all that He whose presence abides with us throughout all this age of grace is that same Holy Spirit of whom Jesus spoke, saying, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.” John 14:16-18
With my small and limited ability I cannot make the truth of Christ’s abiding presence to be a living, transforming reality to your heart. None but the Spirit of God is capable of this divine and mighty act of illumination. He alone can take the things of God and show them unto you. Nevertheless, I confidently assure you that, the moment the solemnizing fact of Christ’s presence grips your heart and fills your mind by the Holy Spirit, the reality of His presence will immediately begin to transform your life. Yea, and I shall further add that the knowledge of His abiding presence will also begin to change and renew your body as well; but of this we shall speak at a later time. The sublime truth of His ever abiding presence through an indisputable promise of God’s grace cannot and will not become real to you until you devote yourself to it by prayer, by meditation, by fasting, and by faith above all else. “Lo, I am with you,” Jesus said; and, if His word cannot be trusted, our mighty foundations are but quicksand beneath our faltering feet. But He who abides with us forever is He whom “having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” 1 Pet. 1:8
Again ’tis eventide and we,
Oppressed with various ills, draw near;
And, though Thy form we cannot see,
We feel and know that Thou art near.
“This is He who was with the church in the wilderness, with the angel which spake to him (Moses) in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively (living) oracles to give unto us.” Acts 7:38
Some glad morning, when the ever, unfolding plan of God is complete, our eyes will behold with endless joy that heaven blest Eden, the garden in which walked Adam, the son of God. Our eyes, long dimmed by the things of earth, have not beheld such glories as were there; our ears have not heard its deep songs of joy, nor have our dreams pictured that land so fair, whose inhabitants knew no sorrow nor crying, no tears nor death nor pain. Wonderful as were its heavenly charms, the glory above all else that made each moment an endless joy was the glory of God’s abiding presence. He who knew all things from the beginning to the end was abiding there with them. He in whom all power dwells, whether in heaven or in earth, was holding them by the hand. The omnipresent Lord, who knows neither slumber nor sleep, was abiding there. It could not have been otherwise else God could not be God. “In Thy presence,” wrote David, “is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” In this secret place they dwelt beneath the shadow of the Almighty, for the Lord God is a sun and a shield to all who walk uprightly. Then in God’s wisdom the dark hour came when the creature was made subject to vanity. Rom. 8:20. Stretching forth his hand in disobedience, he took of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and did eat, “and the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Gen. 3:7. But they were ashamed to meet God in their fig leaf aprons, and, when in the evening of the day “they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden … Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord amongst the trees of the garden.” Gen. 3:8. Surely none could have been more conscious of God’s presence than were Adam and Eve as daily they walked and talked with Him, but now their disobedience had thrust them into a dreadful outer darkness that made them feel naked, ashamed, and frightened at the very thought of God’s presence so that they desired only to hide themselves from Him forever.
Here, then, when man in fear and shame hid himself from the presence of God, was the beginning of labor, sorrow, and night. Thus from the glory and light of God’s presence all men in Adam were cast; for there is no difference, since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God through man’s transgression. Upon our eyes a vail was cast that could not be taken away until that day of triumph in which Jesus Christ, the “second man”, 1 Cor. 15:47, rent the vail in two and flung the gates wide open that repentant, forgiven and newborn men might come with boldness into the holiest by the blood of Jesus – by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, His flesh. Heb. 10:19, 10. For this purpose the Spirit of truth was given, that we who have fixed our hopes in Jesus may abide in His presence forever.
Let us consider with care the detriment that fell like a cloud upon the human family when through disobedience and transgression Adam hid himself from the presence of God. We should not be obliged to present lengthy arguments to prove that man without God is hopelessly blind to eternal things, pitifully helpless, and desperately carnal. Once our eyes become closed to the invisible things, then we are blind to the eternal things, for the things, which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. When our eyes are closed to the invisible, then our vision changes from things above to things beneath. Because we are no longer conscious of the invisible and the eternal, we begin to feast our eyes on the visible and the temporal. Without God men are hopelessly in the flesh. They pass their time in the worthless pursuits of the flesh. Their days are spent in vanity, seeking to gratify the five senses of the physical body, but seldom do they learn that this cannot be done. The eye is never filled with seeing. The lust of the eye for seeing is insatiable. The ear is never filled with hearing, nor is the taste ever satisfied with the rarest of dainties. All our physical appetites, like the grave and the barren womb, never say, “It is enough”.
How often, as I have read the books of First and Second Kings, have I been almost sickened by the dreadful display of carnality and wickedness, manifested in the lives of the kings of Judah and Israel! These were men who from their childhood knew the law of God. They knew better than to do as they did, yet their lives were a continual manifestation of the lusts of the flesh and the desires of the corrupt and carnal mind. The further they went in their unholy desire to gratify the lusts of the flesh the more they rejected God, and the further they departed from His presence the lower they sank in their degrading rebellion. Even Solomon himself, because he loved many women, is found in the end to be a tax-raising oppressor, building altars and places of worship to the abominable gods of his heathen wives, and even stooping to worship them himself. 1 Kings 11:6-8, 33.
Man, without God to change his evil nature, can never hope to bring peace or justice in the earth. The tree of the carnal mind bears the evil fruit of adultery, fornication, uncleanness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, sedition, and heresy as naturally as an apple tree bears apples; but the Spirit of the living God, seated in glory upon the throne of the regenerated heart, filling it with the mind of Christ, bears the good fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, gentleness, meekness, faithfulness, and temperance. Against such there is no law, neither in earth beneath or in heaven above.
How wonderful are the words of our Savior, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 18:3. What better word could we find than the word converted? He who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is converted in every sense of that word. All that he ever was is passed away and all that he never was is vital, unfading, and new. “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed,” for he has passed from death across to life, from a child of the flesh to a child of the Lord, from the bondage of corruption to the freedom of the Spirit, from dreaded condemnation to acceptance and pardon in His sight. Changes so great as to seem almost incredible transform the life of every believer when Jesus Christ comes into his heart. He who once, because of the filth of his sin, hid himself in shame and fear from the presence of God now returns to bask in the shekinah of God’s presence because he has repented of his sin and been cleansed by the blood of the everlasting covenant. “For,” said Paul, “if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Heb. 9:13–14. “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7, and the man who is thus cleansed by faith in Christ is brought back by Him into that glorious presence from which he hid himself in the long ago. Among the sacred scenes of earth none is more wonderful to the regenerated heart than the sight of a sinner coming home to God in repentance. Many times in my life I have watched them come – from tender little boys and girls, sobbing at the feet of Jesus as though they were the greatest of sinners, to men and women hardened and calloused by decades of groveling in the swine pens of iniquity. To the lover of our souls it makes no difference who we are. The same Christ is as real to one as to the other and the same all-powerful blood cleanses from all sin. As the lines of hardness fade away from the sinner’s face and the joy of the Lord fills his heart with peace, myriad angels on high fill the universe with their music and lift their rapturous voices in songs of praise to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, for we “who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Eph. 2:13
The death we endure outside the presence of God is a dreadful experience. Forth from its unholy shadow every evil and ill of all the ages have proceeded to curse humanity. Every war that has darkened the pages of history has come as a result of man’s separation from God’s presence – every persecution of righteousness, every hateful demeanor, every torture chamber, every sickness and disease, every hospital and cemetery. The vast, overpowering corruption of the present hour, which sees humanity more sinful and separated from God than at any time since the days of Noah, is the result of man’s continual desire to hide himself from God’s presence. Because men do not like to retain God in their knowledge, God has given them up to a reprobate mind to do the things which are not convenient, being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; who, knowing the judgment of God that they which do such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. See Rom. 1:28-32. The murderous rash of convenience abortions now filling the earth with the blackness of iniquity is no less heinous a crime than the slaughter of the innocents in the days of Herod. The callous insensibility of this inhuman act is a crying evidence that mankind has entered the incredible place of stupefaction described by Paul as “without natural affection.” 2 Tim 3:3. Any reasonable person will concede that an extenuating circumstance may arise which could justify the termination of the pregnancy, but God will hold mankind responsible for the mass murder of the innocents that now every year exceeds by far the number of babies thrown into the river by the wicked Pharaoh or slaughtered by that bloody murderer, king Herod. I am often reminded of the words of one devout Christian woman who, being gravely ill during the months of her confinement, was warned by her doctor that it would not be possible for both her and the unborn baby to survive. To save her own life she was advised to immediately terminate her pregnancy. To this suggestion the brave woman gave this beautiful answer of resignation and consecration: “The Lord knows which life to spare and which to take.” The result was that both were spared. How good our heavenly Father is to those who put their trust in Him!
The last stage in the corruption and final destruction of a nation is reached by the acceptance and popularization of the sin of sodomy, that vile affection which Paul describes as changing the natural use to that which is against nature, men with men working that which is unseemly. Rom. 1:26–27. This is the sin, which brought fire and brimstone to consume Sodom and purify the ground on which it stood. This is the abomination that hastened the flood in the days of Noah. Man cannot possibly survive nor can a nation endure once he stoops to this dreadful evil. Because of it God curses the people with a reprobate mind to do all manner of things that are inconvenient. Perhaps I will shock you when I say that the problems facing the world are neither complex nor difficult; neither are they complicated nor hard to solve. The solutions are exceedingly simple; the difficulty is in man’s mind. It has become reprobate and confused by his iniquity so that every decision he makes is wrong and everything he does is inconvenient. It is useless to try to correct it now. The abominable confusion must await the termination of man’s six days of labor, confusion, and turmoil. Then will follow the reign of Christ and His sons. Then the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. Selfishness will be gone forever and iniquity shall be no more. Repentance shall have filled the earth of men with believing faith, and we shall have returned to dwell in the blessedness of God’s live-giving presence.
The message of life that even in this evil hour still permeates the believing heart of every saint separated unto God by His Holy Spirit is this: It is possible for saints here and now to live with the constant and continual assurance that the same Lord who walked with Adam in heaven blessed Eden is now walking with them. As the days have passed, especially in recent months, there has come to me an ever, increasing assurance that I am dwelling and walking in His presence. God is no longer far away; He is here. No longer need saints say, “Who shall ascend into heaven to bring Christ down from above, or who shall descend into the deep to bring up Christ again from the dead? The word (Christ) is nigh there, even in thy mouth and in thy heart.” Rom. 10:6–7
This is not a moment for fine words or eloquent speech. This is an hour for very plain speaking. There is a truth that runs like a golden thread throughout all the pages of Holy Writ from Genesis to Revelation, teaching us that the elect whom God has chosen may even now walk in the light of God’s presence. The teaching of this wonderful fact is verified by reality of experience, by many types, and by infallible prophecy. Let all God’s people be informed of the truth I now present. Lay hold upon it as you would a precious jewel because its truth uncovers the secret key that will unlock the door to great spiritual experience and understanding. Men and women in ages past attained through faith in their own day blessings promised to men who were to live in ages yet to come. Let us notice a few examples. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Through faith Enoch was translated that he might not see death. Enoch was a man who lived in the dispensation of conscience – five dispensations in the past – yet by faith he was translated and experienced that which is yet future. Abraham lived under the dispensation of promise – three dispensations before Paul preached the message of justification by faith. Yet Abraham, in the far-off day when justification by faith was only a promise, believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. Rom. 4:3. Three dispensations before justification by faith was preached, his eye beheld the blessedness and his faith reached forward two thousand years or more to partake of its glory, and Abraham was justified by faith without the works of the law, and that before the law was given. And what shall we say of king David, who lived in the heart of the dispensation of the law when by God’s own command sacrifices and offerings for sin were made daily, and the blood of bulls and of goats flowed in an endless crimson stream, heralding a better day when the better blood of Christ, the great anti-type of all sacrifice and offering, would be shed for the remission of the sins of the whole world. David with the eye of the Spirit looked far beyond those animal sacrifices, which could never take away sin, but left with the offerer a heart unchanged. The eye of David, the son of Jesse, looked forward through the corridors of time to the day when the blood of Christ would be shed for the remission of all sin, and Jesus Christ, as God’s faithful High Priest, would enter heaven itself to present His own blood as a sin-offering once, forever, and for all, that mankind should through Him be brought back into God’s presence. Thus did David under the law turn his face away from the religious ceremonies of his day, and with a heart broken for his sin he prayed, “For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt offering.” Psa. 51:16. “Thou desirest truth in the inward parts… Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness … Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psa. 51:6-10. Of David it is written that he was a man after God’s own heart. Who then dare doubt that he, who lived so long ago, reached beyond the experience of his age to receive the blessing of justification by faith as we do now when we kneel at God’s feet to confess our sins and receive Christ our Saviour into our lives?
There is a promised day in a dispensation still future of which it is written, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Rev. 21:3. Angelic voices, echoing in heavenly charm and eloquence, could not describe the triumphant day of blessedness and rejoicing in His presence! I suppose then it is not to be wondered at if but few in this hour of gross darkness are able to see that God is calling a people in our day who shall know the divine secret of walking in His presence. Here and now the elect will know the wisdom of His Spirit within. They will be sensitive to the reality of His presence, conscious of His Spirit speaking, His hand guiding, and His power transforming the spirit, the mind, and the body into the image of Him who created them. Men and women, elect and chosen of God, are not walking in the nakedness that Adam knew and that sinners know. The Spirit of God, who had departed from them, has returned to abide, and all who believe shall know that through God’s Christ we have been led back into the presence of God. The misunderstanding of God’s people concerning God’s eternal purpose, and the abominable traditions of the false church system rob us continually of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God that shines forever from the face of Jesus Christ. “Lo, I am with you always” was the word Jesus spoke, and in fulfillment of that promise He said, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, who will abide with you forever”, or for the age, meaning this age in which we live. Though all the world and most of the Christians dwell in outer darkness of unbelief, we who believe and lay hold of the promise shall know the wonder of His presence.
There came a day when the patriarch Isaac called his son Jacob to himself. He had blessed him with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine, saying, “Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee.” Gen. 27: 28, 29. Then he sent him to Padan-aram to the house of Bethuel to take a wife of the daughters of Laban, his uncle. Gen. 28 With the command of his father in his heart and a haunting dread of the wrath of his brother, Esau, in his mind Jacob started the long journey from Beer-sheba to Padan-aram. “And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and, behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and, behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread toward the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Gen. 28:11-17
“Surely God is in this place, and I knew it not!” These were the words of the patriarch Jacob. They are the words of heaven-sent revelation. This sudden, divine understanding that God was present wrought an instant transformation that changed him from one glory to another throughout his long and difficult life. This revealing experience was his first true contact with the God of Abraham. The sobering knowledge that he was standing in the presence of the almighty God filled his heart with dread, for no man can see God and live. It is impossible! Impossible, I say, because the very knowledge that God is present causes the carnal things of our former life to pass away as ice before the glowing sun, and in their place new things are born that cannot pass away, but, reflecting the glory of God, they abide in His presence forevermore. “God is in this place and I knew it not” will be your inspired words, O Christian, as the transforming truth of His presence, like the life-giving rays of the sun, come stealing o’er the meadows of your soul. It is an immeasurable spiritual tragedy just to see how many Christians, bound by the tradition of Babylon, stumble along over the byways of life, forgetting that He is very present who said, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” And this God’s people continue to do until by some miracle of God’s grace their eyes are opened and from their trembling lips the words break forth, “Surely the Lord is here, and I knew it not.”
Moses was a man of eighty years when he tended the flock of Jethro in the backside of the desert. Gone from his heart was the zeal and fire of yesteryear that had once inspired him to rashly attempt the liberation of his people. Exod. 2:11-15. He was an outcast now, a name long forgotten both in Israel and in Egypt. He wanted nothing better than to be left in peace to tend his inoffensive sheep, for they, unlike his people Israel, were gentle and docile, peacefully trusting him to lead them by day and protect them by night. No man of account knew where he dwelt. Of that he was glad; and perhaps he wondered in his heart if even God knew where he was. This old man had probably convinced himself that the God of Abraham had no special need of him nor any plan for his life. How good it was going to be to live the rest of his life as a simple shepherd of these woolly sheep, and then at last to be gathered to his people and take his place in the bosom of Abraham!
But then there came a day when, looking up, he saw a bush burning with fire. There was nothing very unusual about that except that he presently became aware that, though the flames continued to burn fiercely, the bush was neither harmed nor consumed. Thinking this to be a most unusual phenomenon, he said to himself, “I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And He said. Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover He said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” Exod. 3:3-6
It is not our purpose here to speak of the call and ministry of this man to whom God spoke face to face, but rather to show that God is present at all times, even when we know it not. We have stated before that names in scripture have a special meaning, usually describing the character of the ministry of those who have them. Thus, when Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM; and He said, Thus shall thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Exod. 3:13–14. There is no other name in scripture that more perfectly represents the ever present, the omnipresent God. As to time God is eternal; as to place He is omnipresent. “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.” Psa. 139:7-12. Know this, O child of God: these words are spoken unto you, and He who speaks them is present with you to guide your thoughts into all the will of God. In the knowledge of the secret of His presence you will possess an understanding hitherto unknown in your Christian experience. He who is present with you is a very present help in trouble, transforming the night of all trouble and sorrow into a fortress of Christian light and experience.
Time fails us to tell of Daniel, who stood all night in a den of lions purposely famished that they might destroy him, and of the angel of the Lord who, being present with him, closed their mouths and made them as docile as house cats. Nor can we speak in particular of the Hebrew three, who, walking in a furnace of sevenfold heat, found a fourth man present with them, the form of whom was “like unto the Son of God.” Nor can we tarry long to speak of Paul, who in the midst of the raging storm at sea stood forth with boldness to proclaim safety and deliverance for all who were on board, saying, “And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar; and God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Acts 27:22-24
In the thirty-third chapter of Exodus the Holy Spirit has related for our learning a very important and dramatic incident. Leading up to this chapter is the record of the giving of the law of God and of the subsequent abomination committed by Israel in the worshipping of the golden calf. These chapters should be reread that we might better understand the truth that follows. Israel had been spared destruction through the intercession of Moses, and now the Lord says to him, “Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou has brought up out of the land of Egypt. … And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanites … for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiff, necked people; lest I consume thee in the way. And when the people heard these evil things, they mourned; and no man did put on him his ornaments.” Exod. 33:1-4. “And Moses said unto the Lord, See, Thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and Thou hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me.” Verse 12 “And He said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he (Moses) said unto Him, If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight? Is it not in that Thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken …” Verses 14-17
When believers become conscious of God’s abiding presence, they become distinct from all other people on the face of the earth. They also become distinct from all other Christians. Men who live their lives continually conscious of the presence of Christ both abiding with them and dwelling in them are men who always walk softly with God. A fool who holdeth his peace is considered wise; so they who in silence listen to His still small voice come to know Him as the great I AM. The rich man in pride answereth roughly, but the poor useth entreaties. So he who is poor in spirit depends upon Him who is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
The fourth chapter of Acts tells of the great excitement and wonder caused by the healing of the lame man, and of how in hate and pride the priests and lawgivers, together with rulers and authorities, took counsel against the Lord and against His anointed; but “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13 And may we add the confident assurance that Jesus had been with them! Yea, His presence was continually with them.
In the Authorized Version of the Bible Titus 2:13 is rendered in these words: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ.” But the Emphatic Diaglott, Moffatt, Young and several others render it thus: Waiting for the blessed hope, even the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ in you is the hope of glory, and while Christians century after century have eagerly scanned the heavens for signs of the appearing of the Lord, they have forgotten to live in the glory of the presence of Christ here and now, I am fully aware that a crowning day is coming when Christ shall ride forth from the heaven, followed by those celestial hosts of which John spoke. Rev. 19:11-16. I have no power or ability to describe events so supernal; I may only bask in their surpassing glory. I am led to believe that those who will share the blessedness of that triumphant advent will be they and they alone who, while walking in the wilderness of this world, lived in ever increasing consciousness of God’s presence. These are they who dwell continually in the presence of Him who said, “Lo, I am with you always.” “For what is our hope or joy, or the crown of which we boast? Is it not you yourselves in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?” Thess. 1:19 (Weymouth) Think of the power and majesty of those words that literally say, “Our hope, our crown, and our rejoicing is you in the presence of the Lord Jesus at His coming!”
The presence of the Lord is a secret place. David describes it as the shadow of the Almighty. The cloud overshadowing the camp of Israel throughout their journey in the wilderness, a shade by day and a pillar of fire by night, was none other than the presence of the Almighty. They ate of spiritual meat; they drank of spiritual drink, for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ. 1 Cor. 10:3–4
“In Thy presence is fullness of joy,” wrote the enraptured psalmist; and how could it be otherwise since the God of Israel is our fortress, our power, and our habitation? As a garment plucked from a perfumed closet bears in its fibers the sweet aroma, so they who dwell in the presence of Christ radiate the glory, the beauty, and the power of His attributes. “All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made Thee glad,” wrote David. The ointment Mary poured with prodigality upon the head of the Saviour filled all the house where He sat with its fragrance, and we would be right in believing that all who came forth from that room carried in their garments the sweetness of that aromatic balm.
To dwell in His presence is to be like Him. To abide in His presence is to be changed into His image. Man can never hope to attain the likeness of the Lord by any outward regulation or command to his carnal mind, such as, touch not, taste not, handle not. It is when saints become conscious of His presence that men say they have been with Jesus. It is not what God commands that changes the heart; it is He Himself. It is not the recitation of God’s divine laws that transforms our lives, but our relationship to Him who made them. Our abiding in the presence of Jesus Christ will cure our every ill and transform our spirit, soul, and body into the image of Jesus Christ.
As I was in meditation concerning the truth I have presented here, the following words by Martha Wing Robinson, so full of the breath of the Spirit, reached me through the mail. I think they will make a fitting conclusion to what we have been considering of the presence of God. “You do not realize that you would have broken down under the weight of your cares but for the renewing time with Me. It is not what I say; it is Myself. It is not the hearing Me so much as being in My presence. The strengthening and curative powers of this you cannot know. Such knowledge is beyond human reckoning.
“This would cure the poor world if every day each soul or group of souls waited before Me. Remember that you must never fail to keep this time apart with Me. Gradually you will be transformed, physically, mentally, spiritually, into My likeness, All who see you or contact with you will be by this intercourse with you brought near to Me, and gradually the influence will spread.
“You are making one spot on earth a holy place, and, though you must work and spend yourself ceaselessly because for the present that is your appointed task, yet the greatest work you can do is done in this time apart with Me. Are you understanding that? Do you know that every thought, every activity, every prayer, every longing of the day, is gathered up and offered to Me now? Oh, the joy that I am with you! For this I came to earth, to lead man back to spirit converse with his God.” Amen.
TREASURES OF TRUTH, Volume10, Prayer – Preparation and Patience [George R. Hawtin] ~ BOOK 1