ECHOES from EDEN, PART 13
END-TIME PROPHECY – TRUTH REVEALED
BY: J. PRESTON EBY
KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
DRESSING the GARDEN
The Garden of Flowers
The Garden of Spices
The Garden of Nuts
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed to DRESS IT AND KEEP IT." (Gen 2:7-8, 15)
As we have noted in a previous study, the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is the greatest parable in the Bible. It is supremely important because it explains the real nature of our life here on earth. It tells us about ourselves, about our state of being, and how we bring about the conditions in which we live. It is the textbook on spiritual and psychological anatomy. It is the blueprint of man's experience on earth and his destiny in God. When you thoroughly understand the Garden of Eden you will understand the nature of God, the nature of man, and the nature of satan. This parable is placed almost at the beginning of the Bible because it is the foundation upon which the whole Bible is built; and all the rest of the Bible, to the end of Revelation, assumes an understanding of the Garden of Eden. Indeed, there is only one Bible section before it, and that is the basic first chapter which gives the fundamentals of the creative processes of God.
The book of Genesis begins with man in the blessedness of the Garden of Eden, and ends with a man "in a coffin in Egypt." (Gen 50:26) The Bible, however, opens with man in Eden's fair garden and ends with man, the temple and habitation of God, in that blest Paradise, the new heaven and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Before our eyes can see the glory of God, they must become blind to all things that only seem to be. Before our ears can hear the voice of God, they must become deaf to every earthly voice that clamors for our attention. Before our minds can embrace the depth of eternal wisdom we shall have to strip ourselves of the shallowness of human wisdom and all the limited surface understanding and darkness of the carnal mind.
When we come to the Garden of Eden it is evident that this is more than merely a piece of real estate over in the Middle East. No such place has ever been found, neither the angel with the flaming sword to keep men out. The Garden of God is not a physical place located on this or any other planet. It is a STATE OF BEING. It is a higher existence for man than this cursed state we find ourselves in from birth. It is the state of being that man was in when he was first brought forth from the hand of God and placed upon earth. It represents man in the presence of God, man walking in fellowship with God, man living above sin, sickness, fear and death, man as master over all things! Blessed realities, one and all. The Garden, however, also represents man together with all the factors and conditions, both external and internal, of environment and nature, which were to ultimately lead to his ruin and alienation from God. On the one hand, man WAS the Garden, while on the other hand, man was IN the Garden. The Bible reveals it as a "garden within a garden.” It is a world within a world, a universe within a universe. It is man himself in both a state of being and an environment – the two corresponding.
This great truth of man's STATE OF BEING constituting the Garden of God is one of the tremendous themes which courses its way like a mighty river through the scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation. Consider now how great are the words of the prophet: "For the Lord shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the Garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody." (Isa 51:3) Of course you know that apples cannot sing, grapes cannot show forth gladness, nor can orange trees rejoice in the Lord! He is talking here about His people, a people that is being comforted while in a wilderness state as waste places, and eventually brought back to a life or state of being known as EDEN, the GARDEN OF THE LORD.
Again Isaiah prophesied, saying, "Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching His Vineyard. My well beloved hath a Vineyard in a very fruitful hill: and He fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it. and He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem. judge, I pray you, betwixt Me and My Vineyard. What could have been done more to My Vineyard, that I have not done to it? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to My Vineyard. I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briars and thorns for the Vineyard of the Lord IS THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL, AND THE MEN OF JUDAH HIS PLEASANT PLANT." (Isa 5:1-7) And yet again, in mercy, the Lord comforts His people, declaring, "The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be A WATERED GARDEN, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." (Isa 58:11)
When the Lord declares that HIS PEOPLE is His Vineyard and His Garden we should understand that His purposes are the same now as they were in the beginning when He placed man IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN TO DRESS IT AND TO KEEP IT. In the scriptures the Garden of God always represents the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The thought is not only of the Lord's great Garden; but the life of every child of God is a garden within God's Garden. And what a Garden it was! In that long ago beginning when man stood in the holy and beautiful environment of the presence and glory of God, “And the Lord planted a Garden,” which does not mean He laid it out like an Italian garden with borders and walks and fountains, flourishing with foliage, blossoms, fragrance and fruit. He planted it. I dare take that word and express it another way. He packed it with potentiality. And all human history has come out of that Garden. Moscow, Calcutta, Cairo, New York, and San Francisco have all come out of that Garden. God put man in the Garden, the most favored environment and state of being in the whole earth, and what had he to do? DRESS IT AND KEEP IT. He was to keep it, to guard it, to prune and work it, that it might bring forth much fruit. God took one man by the hand, the offspring of God, to be the keeper and ruler of the Kingdom of God on earth.
In the beginning Adam failed to dress and keep the garden of his own soul, and what a pitiful thing it is to see that men through the long millenniums since that day have also wretchedly failed and the world has endured a long night of sorrow and pain. The Shulamite, in the Song of Solomon, at the outset of her relationship with her Beloved confessed her own neglect, saying, "They made me keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept." (S of S 1:6) Though the Lord may let us tend a portion of His great Vineyard, though He may let us minister to other souls in different ways, there is a part of the Vineyard of the Lord which He actually gives to each one of us; and that is the vineyard of our own lives.
He would have us care for and guard our heart above all that we treasure and protect, for out of it are the issues of life. It is this hidden place of our innermost being that must be watched and tended more than all that appears on the outside. We cannot judge the condition within, by the exterior; for many times, the outward appearance is either better or worse than appears before the face of God. We must guard and protect the roots and hidden fibers of our beings, our thoughts, our impulses, our desires. Adam was a son of God (Lk. 3:38) and was placed in the Garden of Eden to dress and to keep it. Can we not see by this that all who would be sons of God must put away everything that is not of God that is hidden and unseen, as zealously as we put away the defects that appear on the outside, which humble us when they are seen by others?
Ray Prinzing has beautifully expressed it this way: In our daily overcoming, it is not a going out to fight other spirits, but TO KEEP OUR OWN SPIRIT PURE AND CLEAN. There are so many things these days to stir up and agitate our spirit, until it becomes defiled, unless we place that guard over against the things without – and seek to maintain a meek and quiet spirit before the Lord. The whole teaching of God is, “My little children, KEEP YOURSELVES…” You are the area that is under attack by the enemy because God has purposed that you shall be an overcomer. We are right back to the beginning instruction of the Lord – Genesis 2:15, “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and TO KEEP (guard) it.” Your spirit has been placed into an earthen vessel, and your first charge is to keep that vessel pure unto the Lord, to be “meet for the Master’s use.” And we need to beware lest anything come in that would defile. Thank God, we do not fight this battle alone, but “GREATER IS HE THAT IS WITHIN YOU,” who shall become our strength, our shield, our victory. Paul gave clear instruction to Timothy (2. Tim 1:14), “That good thing which was committed unto thee KEEP BY THE HOLY SPIRIT which dwelleth in us.” – end quote.
My brethren, if we cannot tend the garden of our own soul and life, we must not think that the Lord will entrust us with the oversight of greater gardens. How can a man rule over other men's souls, how can he judge angels, how can he rule the nations with a rod of iron, how can he exercise dominion over the vastness of the universe, yea, how can he rule over A-L-L T-H-I-N-G-S as God hath spoken – if he cannot rule his own spirit? “He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city." (Prov. 16:32) There are literally thousands of men and women running about over the face of the earth doing what they call "The work of the Lord," but it is distressing to see that the vast majority of them were never called nor commissioned by the Lord of the Vineyard in the first place. I am convinced that the first work in the Lord's Vineyard, which He entrusts to us and calls upon us to do, is to care for our own lives and to first partake of the fruit.
Vast multitudes who are caught up in the works of the religious institutional realm, often ignore their inner state of being. In our day every concerted effort is being made to occupy the minds and time and actions of the people of God so that they never concentrate on Christ or come to any real knowledge of Him. Their lives are so crammed and cluttered with the manifold programs of the church system that they will finally awake to the fearful knowledge that they do not know Him. How busy we were in that realm trimming all the vines around us, but our own inner nature was not dealt with. That is the condition that produces the tragedy of men and ministries like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggert – and thousands of others less known. So it is not at all a strange phenomenon to find that hundreds, yea, thousands of men and women who truly desire to serve God, have over these past several years been drawn aside by Him, to the backside of the desert, as it were, while He now purges and purifies within. It has meant much bewilderment, frustration and perplexity, until they are beginning to see that God IS more concerned with their own vineyard, to deepen and perfect HIS LIFE WITHIN THEM.
Paul Mueller has written: “The principle purpose which is uppermost in the mind of the Father at this time is the growth and coming to maturity of His chosen remnant. Every other purpose under heaven is secondary to this purpose during this exceptional time. Therefore, it is essential that all who are members of this Christ body, the sons of God, should concentrate on their own spiritual maturity. Strive not to do the religious works of man, but seek rather for the fullness of Christ in your own heart and life. There is no other purpose under heaven that can equal this grand and holy purpose of the Father. Put away all the desires and appetites of the world and of the flesh, and seek only to please the Lord. And if you really care for the masses of the world who know not God and His wonderful grace and mercy, then you will seek for His fullness in your life. If you have really heard the groans of a creation that is suffering under the burden of sin and shame, you will cease all your religious activity, which is really only the works of the flesh, and will follow hard after the Lord. Let us seek to please God as Enoch did, and we will witness a glorious manifestation of His life that will set every captive free. God, in His great wisdom, has linked all of creation’s needs and travails with the glorious transformation of the bodies of the sons of God into bodies like unto Christ’s body. And it is quite possible that when this glorious transformation does occur, the stones, the trees, shrubs, and grass of the field, as well as all animals life, will lift their voices in praise to Him who has fulfilled His word and satisfied the inherent hope within every created thing” – end quote.
This story is told of a little boy who couldn’t play outside because it was raining. His father, who was trying to take an afternoon nap on the sofa, became annoyed, “Go to the other room, son; Daddy wants to sleep. Find something in there to play with.” “Like what?” “Anything,” snapped the father “There isn’t anything,” replied the lad. Grabbing the newspaper, the man tore out a page with a large map of the world printed on it. With scissors he cut it into dozens of odd-shaped pieces like a puzzle. “There, see if you can put it together, and don’t bother me till you’re done.” The father settled down on the sofa thinking his problem was solved, but ten minutes later there was a tug on his shirt. “You can’t be done yet!” But there on the floor was the neatly constructed world. “How did you do it?” he asked “Easy,” said the son “A man’s picture was on the back, and when I got the man together right, the world was right.” Ah, yes – when God gets HIS MAN put together in the fullness of Christ all the problems of the world will simply fall into place! Let us not expend our energies trying to get the world straightened out and ordered aright in this hour. Let us give ourselves to apprehending that for which Jesus Christ has apprehended us – to grow up into a PERFECT MAN, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Then the whole creation will fall into place. Let us not sell creation short!
Israel of old was ordained by God to be a kingdom of priests unto God and unto all the nations of earth. But the men of Israel forgot the vineyard of their own souls and it became neglected, overgrown with thorns and thistles, with noxious weeds; the soil was rocky and unfertile. How easy it is to just lose ourselves in the flurry of activity commonly called "the Lord's work," and give our attention to everybody else, involving ourselves in their needs and problems, rather than facing up to OURSELVES. And while it is true, HIS LOVE AND LIFE flowing through us will give us compassion for others, with its various avenues of service, nevertheless there is a divine principle in the Kingdom of God – a PRIORITY established that we must first tend to our own vineyard. I do not hesitate to say that over the past few years there has been an increasing emphasis by the Holy Spirit, as a TRUMPET thundering out the message, declaring that God is not concerned with where we are GOING (heaven, golden streets, mansions etc. ), but He is first interested in what we are BECOMING – OUR STATE OF BEING IN HIM, before all our doing. Is this not because the ministry of the sons of God, soon to arise, shall be a ministry out of BEING, rather than out of GIFTS? A "gift" will function through the most unclean of vessels. The Corinthians were a classic example of this, and we see abundant evidence of this fact all around us in the religious activity going on; but the holy sons of God SHALL BE LIKE HIM and shall rule and reign out of that incorruptible STATE OF BEING, and then, and only then, shall there be a reign so glorious and life-giving that every enemy shall be subjected and even death itself shall be swallowed up in victory throughout all God's creation! This goes hard on all those involved in man's program, and I suppose all the arguments and persuasions in the world will not awaken Christians to the fact that the vast majority of the activities of the church today are but the works of MEN, but I can assure you that when men stop long enough to quiet themselves BEFORE THE LORD, He inevitably turns their attention from "works" into our BECOMING what He want us to BE.
The blessed age to come shall be governed by those saints who have become OVERCOMERS, who have arrived at maturity of sonship, who have come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Not those who tend the Father's Vineyard negligently, shall be in this company; not those who pamper their flesh and let it overrun their lives, shall be in this company; not those who examine their vineyards only now and then shall appear on Zion's Holy Hill; it is those who dwell in their gardens and tend them day and night, those who ever keep them before their eyes, that shall be well-pleasing to the Owner of the Vineyard and shall be given dominion over all things. You can count on it!
THE GARDEN OF FLOWERS
In the Scriptures the Garden of God always represents the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. I am convinced that there is a significant parallel between the second chapter of Genesis and the book of the Song of Solomon. Let us take particular note that in the Song of Solomon there are four vineyards, or gardens (these words being synonymous), and they all four bespeak the Kingdom of God in different aspects and stages of development.
We read in the Song of Solomon 2:10-13, "My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, My love, My fair one, and come away For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle (turtledove) is heard in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, My love, My fair one, and come away.” In these verses we find the first mention of the "garden," or “vineyard.” This is THE GARDEN OF FLOWERS AND IMMATURE FRUIT. It is the beginning of spring in the Vineyard of the Lord, and we see that there is no ripe fruit, no company of sons has yet come into the full image of that first grain planted at the end of the age of law, and there are only flowers which give promise of abundant fruitage. The birds are singing, the green figs are beginning to form, and the voice of the turtledove is heard proclaiming that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Historically, the above verses refer to the transition period at the time of the first advent of Christ and on into the beginning of the church age. John the Baptist first came announcing the coming of Christ and proclaiming that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. It sets forth the doing away of the old dispensation and law of the covenant, which had no power to bring life to dead souls and is symbolized by Winter; and the ushering in of the new dispensation of grace and of the Holy Spirit, which is symbolized by Spring. The law of God has never been fulfilled excepting in Jesus Christ. That which no man could do, Jesus Christ came and did as He walked upon earth in a body of flesh and as He died upon Calvary. The darkness and winter of condemnation, of the absence of God's presence, of rituals and ceremonies and sacrifices, were done away by the Lord Jesus Christ, who satisfied every demand of the law and fulfilled it perfectly. The rain of the Holy Spirit which came with the passing of the law softened the ground and prepared it for the bringing in of a better covenant.
As we think of the faint light that the people of God had under the old dispensation, we see that it truly was winter. It was like the warmth of the sun in midwinter, when its rays can scarcely penetrate and disperse the frost in the air. There was no more power in the law to give life to one soul, than there is power and warmth in the midwinter sun and atmosphere, to bring out the flowers of spring and the fruits of summer and autumn. There was no life or power in the law; all was dead and could only point the way to HIM who could give life. All the law could do, was to show man his utter helplessness, his exceeding sinfulness. Even when he would do good, there was no power in man's fallen nature to obey God's commands; he could not work out his own salvation until God had put something in him to work out.
In the individual, this is a picture of the soul who is dead in trespasses and in sins; full of darkness and deadness, full of fruitlessness; whose life is bleak, cold, dead, like midwinter When the breaking up comes, and the rays of the Sun of righteousness begin to fall upon the winter of death and unbelief, the clouds of doubts and fears begin to roll away and the warmth of God's presence brings life to the soul. It is the rain that comes when winter begins to break up that prepares the ground for the seed of the Christ life and fruitfulness. It is the breaking up, in the godly sorrow that comes to the repentant soul, that prepares the soil of the heart for the implantation of the incorruptible seed of Christ. The rain cannot bring forth fruit any more than can the snow of winter; but it prepares the ground for the seed, which has the power of an endless life in it.
And not only this, but in this first garden the flowers have appeared upon the trees and upon the vines of the heritage of the Lord. As yet there is no fruit, but the flowers give promise of a rich harvest from every shrub and plant, from every vine that the Father has planted in His Vineyard. This is the beginning of the setting up of the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth. As soon as the seed of the Christ life is planted in the heart of a man, the Lord Jesus Christ begins to lay hold on that man to set up His government in that life. He plans to lift the elements of that man's being up into Himself, to imbue the believer with His mind, with His Spirit, with His thoughts and with His nature until the soul is so transformed that it can with truth be said, "As He is, SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD.” In this blessed development of the Christ the believer partakes of truth until he becomes truth. He learns wisdom until he is wisdom. Love, joy, peace, righteousness, and judgment become integral parts of his redeemed spirit. All that Christ is the believer becomes. He is a PARTAKER OF THE DIVINE NATURE. He escapes the corruption that in the world through lust. He loses his own will and delights himself in the will of God. In this age of grace THOSE IN WHOM CHRIST LIVES AND WALKS ARE THE KINGDOM over which He reigns. They are the Garden of God, the Vineyard of the Lord, in which grows the tree of life and from which flows the sparkling waters of the river of life. This may seem to be a very small kingdom for such a great and eternal King, but the garden is planted eastward in Eden and from its portals shall come that MAN, the last Adam, Head and body, whose authority and Lordship is destined to be as boundless as eternity, for God shall put all things under His feet.
"The voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” The turtledove is an emblem of love, and also the Holy Spirit, and he is the first of the migratory birds to return in the springtime; the first to come back to the warmth and to the brightness of the returning sun. Truly did the sound of the turtledove go forth in the land at the time when our Lord was upon earth! And this sound is once again going forth over the earth in these days. The voice of the Holy Dove is heard in our land! The Spirit of God is speaking, as a Voice thundering out the message, through thousands of God's children, proclaiming the imminence of the manifestation of the sons of God and the approaching dawning of that more glorious age of the Kingdom of God. In these last days, and with mighty power these past few years, the sound has gone forth over the whole earth that in the Garden of God the firstfruits of the Kingdom are being matured and ripened for harvest.
But there is a further truth in this. Never since the days of the early church has there been such singing of birds, such pruning of branches, and such separating as God has been doing in His Vineyard during these last few years. There is a different note of praise, which has never been heard in the same way before; it seems to well up in the hearts of thousands of saints over the face of the earth. It is as though our glorious Lord has been robbed of glory so long, that the Holy Spirit would literally bring back to Him the glory which, during many centuries, has largely been turned aside to man. But this praise has a quality to it, it is not "fair weather" praise that, when everything is going good and the blessings are pouring down, says, "Isn't God good!” A great deal of the praise that has been heard in the Pentecostal and Charismatic realms has been the praise ascending because of the healings, miracles, answers to prayer, prosperity, cars, homes, jobs, blessings, gifts, etc. As those elect saints, apprehended to sonship, go on to perfection, it is not when everything is going smoothly, that this singing is heard with the most sweetness and power. God is bringing us to the place where we so desire HIM, to be conformed to HIS IMAGE, to be perfect matured fruit of His Vine, that we shall sing with the most abandonment and melody and joy WHEN THE PRUNING OF THE VINES IS GOING ON. When the Father reaches down His hand and begins to cut the suckers from the vines, when He separates us and begins to deal with us, then shall be heard the singing of birds over the whole domain of our beings. Those who go about moaning and repining when the problems come and things get rough are not called unto sonship. That may seem like a hard word, but it is a true word, nonetheless.
After the husbandman has gone through the vineyard and pruned the vines, they look like fields of unsightly sticks stuck in the ground No one would believe that they could ever bear a leaf, much less any fruit, so unpromising do they appear. But when the rain and the sun minister to them, abundant fruit and harvest is brought forth in its time. So it is with every son. Some years ago a brother shared this experience: Just the other day, I was traveling with a friend through South Carolina, right at the peak of the peach season. We were astounded by the hundreds of acres of land used for the sole purpose of growing peaches. As we rode, my companion pointed out that the trees, because of the constant pruning, were very short, “The reason being,” he said, “Is so all the nourishment pulled up from the ground will go directly to produce fruit.” We discussed how, on the contrary, in a tall, thin tree the nourishment would be spent on the long limbs and excessive foliage, leaving little for the fruit.
We continued to ride, and as we did, I felt the Lord speaking to me, showing me the parallel between the natural laws for raising high-quality peach trees and the spiritual laws for cultivating a fruit-bearing saint. I looked again at these trees, studying their characteristics closely. They were short, perhaps, but stout, sturdy, and laden with priceless fruit. I could just imagine the picture underground – numerous strong roots reaching deep in the earth, digging past the sandy dirt into the rich, fertile soil. Imagining the nourishment rising into the tree, I saw that it had nowhere to go except into the fruit. I took notice of the minimal amount of leaves, realizing that the purpose of the tree was not to be attractive or beautiful, but to bear fruit – good fruit. I tried to picture in my mind a peach tree which was either allowed to grow wild, or was pruned only once in a while. I envisioned a tall, leafy tree which, from a distance, appeared magnificent and authoritative. Looking closer, looking past all the greenery, it was obvious that the tree’s limbs were scrawny and weak and the roots were shallow. The fruit, if any, was twisted and diseased, lacking in nourishment.
The comparison I saw between these two types of trees and believers today was shockingly close. If we, as children of God, would only be willing to let the Lord be our husbandman; if we would realize that our sole reason for living is to fulfill his purposes! We must allow Him to prune us regularly, so that we might bear much fruit. If we do otherwise, we will be frail and weak and void of fruit. By the same token, we must regulate our growth upward in the world by our growth downward into the Lord. We will otherwise be as the tall tree whose shallow roots would prove defenseless against a raging storm – end quote.
Ah, my brethren, let me assure you we are not nearly stripped yet, the times of real tribulation, trouble and testing are yet ahead of us, but our Father Husbandman would have us anoint our heads and praise and worship Him when we are going through the hard things, so that it would be a veritable singing of birds. How often when we are in this pruning process, we put on sackcloth and ashes and say with every action, if not in words: "The Lord is dealing with me, I am going through such hard things; pray for me that I'll hold out.” Our adorable Lord would give unto us such "Songs in the night" of sorrow and trial, of affliction and tribulation, that though we pass through continual Valleys of Weeping, we shall make of them all Places of Springs, until every spot is covered with the blessing of the Water of Life.
THE GARDEN OF SPICES
THE GARDEN OF SPICES. This is the second garden mentioned in the Song of Solomon. In chapter five, verse one, the King announces: "I have come into My Garden: I have gathered My myrrh with My spice; I have eaten My honeycomb with My honey; I have drunk My wine with My milk: eat, O friends: drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” It was while He was on earth that Jesus Christ began to gather those precious spices. He ever yielded to the will of God, was ever learning obedience through the things He suffered, and always expressed the life and nature of His Father. At last He could say: "I have gathered My myrrh with My spice, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do, I have glorified Thee on the earth.”
When God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion," it seems that God made a mistake. When He made him out of dirt – out of the dust of the ground – and fashioned him with the kind of human body we have, flesh and blood, soul and body, with all the appetites, desires and weaknesses we have, all the frailty, all the ability for twisting, warping and spoiling things, when He created man like that and then thought that in such a physical, human, natural, dirt-made body HIS IMAGE COULD BE MANIFESTED, it seems that God was indulging in foolishness! Could that human creature, limited like us, rule the world and rule over angels and be master over the whole universe? Did not the devil intrude into the garden and spoil the whole hope, forever proving that man could never fulfill such a high and holy calling?
When the apostle James stood to speak in the council at Jerusalem, he made this remarkable statement: "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world." (Acts 15:18) It is true that the God who said, "Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness: and let them have dominion," is the very God of omnipotence and omniscience who has known all His works from the foundation of the ages, for it was God who framed the ages and appointed what should be done in each one of them.
In due time, man's weakness and the devil notwithstanding, God said, "I will invade humanity and come down in the Person of My Son, limit Myself to a human, physical body just like man has, with all its appetites, desires, weaknesses, possibilities of suffering hunger, fatigue and death, and I will demonstrate the character, the life, the love, the righteousness and the power of God on the human level.” My earnest prayer to God is that those who read these lines may quickly come to see that THE INCARNATION WAS GOD MANIFESTING HIMSELF WITHIN THE LIMITATION OF HUMAN BODY. When Jesus the Lord came to earth, He could not fly like birds, He could not see any further than any other man's eyes, He could not run faster than the other young men in His day, He got as tired and weary and exhausted as anybody else, He got hungry and thirsty, fell asleep and snored, could be mocked and spit upon and finally killed. Yet in Jesus Christ you had THE PERFECT BODY FOR THE EXPRESSION OF GOD, and Jesus could say, not after the resurrection, but in His body of flesh and blood and limitation, "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father." (Jn. 14:9)
What is the importance of the earthly life of the firstborn Son of God? It means that the Spirit of God, the Son of God, GOD HIMSELF can live and express Himself in a physical human body. When God invaded humanity in the body of Jesus Christ, taking upon Himself human nature and limitation, being in the likeness, not of glorified flesh, but of sinful flesh, and for thirty three and a half years lived and walked and slept and died in that body, manifesting God in the scope of humanity, it meant that God can, by His Spirit – Jesus can by His Spirit – come in and live in these human bodies of ours, living in us, loving in us, being righteous in us, and manifesting Himself, even though we are compassed about with infirmities! The Bible says that Jesus Christ was Himself tempted in ALL POINTS like as we are, and He learned obedience through the things He suffered. Even though we suffer being tempted, even though we suffer the weakness and limitation of a flesh body and human nature, even though we have a broken bone or a broken heart, compassed about by problems and limitations, ah, beloved, CONSIDER HIM that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, HIM whose back was beaten, His brow was crowned with thorns, His hands, His feet, His side were pierced, and He shed His blood. Yet, dying on the cross in agony with the spittle running down His face, GOD WAS LIVING AND MANIFESTING IN HIM!
Being mocked, God was living in Him. Asleep in the bottom of a boat, God was living in Him. Hungry, weary, and sorrowful, God was living in Him. Hated, persecuted, spit upon, nailed to the cross, dying, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. Do you see what God did? He made it possible, through Jesus Christ, for Himself to be at home in human bodies. The voice John heard from heaven declared: "Behold, the TABERNACLE OF GOD IS WITH MEN, and He will dwell with them." (Rev 21:3) Not with angels, with man! The same beloved apostles said, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And the Word was made flesh AND DWELT AMONG US." (Jn. 1:14) In Jesus' physical body was the tabernacle, the dwelling of the believer. And it is no mere figure of speech when Paul writes of the believers, saying, "Know ye not that YE ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? What? Know ye not that YOUR BODY IS THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY GHOST which is in you?” (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19)
"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.” (Jn. 14:23) The word "abode" in the Greek means "a residence, a home.” "The Father and I will come and make our abode – be at home – with you.” Not to be a visitor but to settle down, without conflict. The Spirit will abide comfortably within you, so that the mind of the Spirit flows through your mind normally and naturally, and the nature of the Spirit is expressed through your actions naturally, without pretense. The Spirit AT HOME in us, naturally and normally. The Spirit living and manifesting naturally through our bodies and faculties. It seems that some prophecy cannot come forth unless the speaker starts to shake or change his tone of voice. Don't you know that God was speaking through Jesus all the time? The authority of Jesus was not in how violently He shook or how loud He shouted, or how many “thus saith the Lord’s” He inserted. In all His living, and speaking and doing God was living in Him. God was speaking through Jesus when He said to His neighbor, "I would like to buy those boards from you, so that I can make a table for My other neighbor over there.” If you have trouble seeing how it could have been God who said that through Jesus, think for a moment how differently Jesus would have said it had it been the devil saying it through Him!
The meaning of the incarnation is that God came and made Himself AT HOME in the human body of Jesus Christ. The wonder of the incarnation is that God could drink out of a cup if Jesus drank out of a cup, God in Him learned to crawl before He learned to walk, God learned a language and talked "baby talk" in the process; in the mind and soul of Jesus there was a continual increase of the ability of God to be manifest in and through Him. When God comes to dwell in us, it is not something foreign that invades us, making us strange and weird. Paul did not say, "For me to shake and speak in tongues and act spiritual and get into the 144,000 is Christ.” He said, "For me TO LIVE is Christ!” (Phil 1:21) Living for Paul did not mean merely those supernatural moments when he was seeing visions, falling prostrate, hearing voices or being caught up into the third heaven. It meant for Paul to walk from one town to another on the dusty roads with Christ walking in him. It was speaking to people and manifesting the love and the will of God as he went. The everyday living of his life was the living out OF CHRIST.
"Christ LIVETH IN ME." (Gal 2:20) That is the revelation of this age. That is the divine secret of sonship. Man and God become united. We repeat over and over that familiar phrase, "Ye are the body of Christ," oft times little realizing the truth of it and the power of it. Those blessed ones who have been born of the incorruptible seed of the Christ are tangible, living, pulsating body – flesh and bones and blood and mind of Jesus Christ – and God is in them, manifesting through each one every minute, bringing all the conditions of our being into harmony with His will and His mind. God's purpose is not to make us automations. We see a ventriloquist operating a wooden dummy, and the dummy's lips move; it looks as though it is talking. He is just moving in obedience to another power. God has a higher purpose than making man an automation. God's purpose is to bring out all the qualities of God in your own soul and body until all your individuality and personality are the nature and substance of God.
So now God can feel at home in us, without any strain or abnormality. The Son of God can live in us, can manifest His life in us in the office, in the shop, in the super market, in the home, on the freeway, in every relationship of life. Some people think that there are areas, particularly to do with our bodies, our appetites, our functions, with which God does not have anything to do, or with which God cannot live comfortably within us. I meet people who have the idea that in order to be a son of God they should overcome sex and not fulfill the sexual relationship in their marriage. I have a word for that: bologna! hogwash! I will believe they have a revelation from God when they also STOP EATING, STOP DRINKING, STOP SLEEPING AND STOP GOING TO THE BATHROOM. God has fashioned our bodies to function in particular ways and He will live in our bodies and manifest His life through us on this human level until we receive our glorified bodies in which to manifest God on that level. Christ was made with a body like ours and He demonstrated God in every facet of His life, spirit, soul and body. He ate, He slept, and if the Father would have so willed He could have had a wife and known the joys of such a physical relationship. God dwelling in our physical bodies does not make angels out of us, but establishes RIGHTEOUSNESS in and through our bodies. We do not stop eating, we eat RIGHT. We do not end the natural, normal physical relationship between husband and wife; rather, it is enriched by the love of God and the holiness of God. A man can enjoy the physical love of his wife IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, or he can enjoy the physical love of somebody else's wife IN UNCLEANNESS. God in us makes us do whatever we do – RIGHT! That is RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Through all His life Jesus Christ walked in the Garden of God that blessed realm of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. He came as a man, in human body, with all its physical functions and limitations; but reached out by the Spirit and gathered the fragrant spices of the divine life and nature of His Father; He ate the honeycomb with its honey of incorruption; He drank the wine of joy and revelation and the milk of the Word of God; He emanated the precious essence of the life of God in the midst of a dark and dismal world where immorality and cruelty was the normal everyday way of life. The Corinthian believers came out of the depths of depravity, some had been the scum of the earth, yet God said, "I will dwell in them" (II Cor. 6:16) He went right into the midst of them and transformed them and indwelt bodies that were marked by sin. Many of the early Christians were slaves, they had been beaten, marred, some had their hands cut off, rings in their ears, but God did not refuse to indwell them. Most of them were the poorest, most despised of men, but God came to dwell in them. He came to indwell some in Caesar’s palace in Rome, where people were twice as vile as those in Corinth.
How could God dwell in and live in them? I will tell you how! Do you know where HE was born? Do you know any place worse than a stable for a delivery room? Any town more despicable than Nazareth? Any death more ignominious than the death of a cross? Born and raised in the worst possible circumstances with everything against you, and God says, "I am going to show that with the wrong birth in the wrong place in the wrong town in a corruptible body of flesh under the wrong circumstances I CAN STILL LIVE IN YOU AND BE AT HOME IN YOU.” "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and YE SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, saith the Lord Almighty." (II Cor. 6:17-18) Can you imagine that? Jesus is the firstfruits of this sonship. In the frailty, nature and limitation of a human body He gathered the spices of THE GLORY OF THE FATHER and enveloped His whole being in them. Right here upon the earth HE BECAME the planting of the Lord, the Garden of God, the Essence of the Father's Life.
Ah, yes, the Father has planted a garden – the Garden of Spices – not in some far-off heaven somewhere, but here, in the midst of man's sorrow, darkness and death. The myrrh and frankincense, the chief spices, which came from the life of Jesus Christ, did not stop with His life upon earth, or with His death upon the cross. There is a precious harvest of perfume and incense, which is still increasing and being perfected through the other members of His body, as they yield to Him, and enter into the fellowship of His sufferings and come to know Him in the power of His resurrection life.
Again I would quote a precious portion from the writings of Ray Prinzing. HE COMES INTO HIS GARDEN, He comes into the beds of spices – and there he feeds!
There is no way that words can be placed upon paper to fully describe or tell what it means to MINISTER TO THE LORD, to offer upon His table that which brings delight to His heart. To offer that worship that draws Him to us, as we are drawn to Him. Yet somewhere in all this allegory we sense that which bespeaks of the stirrings within us. With the words of the chorus we pray:
“O to be filled with His presence, O to be lost in His love,
O to know Jesus my Saviour, O to be found in God.”
There are spices of camphor, spikenard, saffron, calamus, cinnamon, myrrh, aloes, frankincense. They all have their particular meanings and symbolism, their uses, for perfumes, anointing, etc but they also bespeak of the many crushings needed to bring out their fragrance, to release the inner aroma. We find them in the embalmings, self not only brought to its death, but there is to be no stench of its decay. We find them in the sacrificial fumigation, to counteract the smell of burning flesh, making the sacrifice a sweet savor to God. We find them in the anointing oils to permeate the being.
Interesting that Song of Solomon 4, lists 8 special spices. Eight is the number of resurrection, new beginnings, the new creation. Out of all the death throes, of the turbulent winds, the stormy trials, there will be a release of the fragrance of HIS INWORKINGS, and we will be brought into the resurrection, to share that FULLNESS, that ONENESS, that enduring knowledge that I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I AM, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3)
“Wherefore, having put out of the way once and for all everything that would impede the free action of your mind, be calm and collected in spirit, and set your hope perfectly, wholly, and unchangeably, without doubt and despondency, upon the grace that is being brought to you upon the occasion of the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13, Wuest Expanded) Let the winds blow, let the spices flow out, HE shall come into His garden, to the bed of spices, and we shall be joined together in the rapture and delight of His glory. Praise God! – end quote.
We are standing today, beloved ones, IN the garden of the Kingdom of Heaven and AS the garden of the Kingdom of Heaven, where abound the spices of His heavenly life, the fragrance of which has reached down through the ages and now clings sweetly to us. But is it not true that at times alas! instead of gathering myrrh, we gather thistles and thorns. When we should be gathering the spikenard of humility, we are gathering the vile smelling weeds of pride; when we should be gathering the precious attributes of Christ, we are holding on to the poisonous weeds of our own flesh; when we should be laying in the fragrant oils of the fruit of the Spirit, we are holding on to our fleshly works. By His grace we are determined to gather the spices of HIS GRACE AND GLORY until their fragrance sweeps up to heaven like the smoke of the continual incense before the face of God, yea, until their odors pervade the whole atmosphere of this earth realm in which we walk that HE MAY BE GLORIFIED! To this very end God has planted HIS GARDEN!
THE GARDEN OF NUTS
This is the third garden in the Song of Solomon "I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded." (S of S 6:11)
There is a remarkable truth which the Holy Spirit would impress indelibly upon our minds. It will make a universe of difference to our understanding, and to our spiritual growth and progress when our minds grasp the fact that each and every word of Holy Scripture contains both an outer and an inner meaning. Behind the literal words lies another range of meaning, another form of knowledge. Every story in the whole Bible conveys another knowledge – a meaning quite different from the literal sense of the words. The story of Adam and Eve in the garden, the story of Noah and the ark, the story of the Tower of Babel, the story of Jacob and Esau and the mess of pottage, the stories of Joseph, Moses, Elijah, David, Solomon and every other story and experience and historical event recorded in the pages of Holy Writ contains an inner spiritual meaning far removed from their literal level of meaning.
In the Gospels the parable is used in a similar way. As they stand, taken in the literal meaning of the words, the parables refer apparently to vineyards, to householders, to stewards, to spendthrift sons, to oil, to water and wine, to seeds and sowers and soil, to rich men burning in hell, and many other things. This is their literal level of meaning. The language of parables is difficult to understand just as is the language of all the Word of God. Taken on the level of literal understanding alone, both the Old and New Testaments are full of ambiguous, confused, and often cruel and repulsive meaning.
When asked by His disciples why He taught in parables, Jesus clearly indicated the divine principle of the Kingdom of God. He answered them, "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given." (Mat 13:11) Any man by the use of his carnal mind can understand the surface meaning of the parable of the sower and the seed, but only the SPIRITUAL MIND sees the deeper underlying SPIRITUAL TRUTH. The truth which lies buried as a treasure beneath the surface dust is the meaning the Lord would have us see and, until we thus perceive, all our spiritual understanding lies dreadfully confined and straitened, leaving us to grope among the surface stones for priceless gems to enrich the inner man.
Jesus spoke of the absolute necessity of an inner quickening and transformation called THE NEW BIRTH. Said Jesus, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (Jn. 3:3-8) The wind, phantom symbol of the breath of God, the life-giving Holy Spirit, blows where it listeth, awakening the souls of men long dead in trespasses and sins, and moving on the face of the deep darkness and death in our spirits, causes the light that shone out of darkness to shine into our hearts, quickening and imparting life, giving us by its power the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. That blessed Spirit one day moved upon me, bless His name, and at my behest He came in as a mighty rushing blast of the breath of the Almighty, dispelling the shroud of darkness and the power of sin and death that I might be reborn, a marvelous NEW CREATION in Christ Jesus.
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot SEE, and certainly cannot ENTER, the Kingdom of God. The wind is the Spirit of God and the water is the living Word of God. If there could be one reason above all others that would loudly proclaim the necessity of a new birth, it would be this: "Except a man be born again HE CANNOT SEE (or ENTER) THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” There is no more spiritual life in the unregenerate man than there is life on mars. Therefore it can also be asserted that there is no more spiritual understanding in the carnal mind of the natural man than there is intelligence on mars! Surely, Oh man, thou who art born anew through the implantation of God's divine life, your spirit should now grasp the significant truth of the words of our Saviour when He declared, "except a man be born again, he CANNOT see the Kingdom of God!”
The idea behind each and every word of the Holy Scripture is to convey a higher meaning than the literal words contain, the truth of which MUST BE SEEN AND EXPERIENCED BY MAN SPIRITUALLY, INTERNALLY. This higher, concealed, inner, spiritual meaning, cast in the words and sense-images of ordinary events, can only be grasped by the quickened spirit and the renewed mind, and it is exactly here that the difficulty lies in conveying the deep spiritual things of God to the natural man. A person's literal level of understanding, regardless how educated or intellectual he may be, is clearly not equal to grasping SPIRITUAL TRUTH. This is why Jesus, after speaking a parable, so often said, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." (Mat 11:15) Let us be absolutely sure of this one momentous principle of the Kingdom of God: It is not the surface meaning that has any importance, but the golden nugget of spiritual truth which lies in the mine beneath the surface is that alone which is able to enrich the inner man of the Spirit.
It is written of our Lord Jesus Christ before He ascended to the Father: "Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scripture the things concerning Himself.” "Then OPENED HE THEIR MIND, that they might UNDERSTAND the Scriptures." (Lk. 24:27, 45) One blessed moment spent in the dazzling light of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation from God will teach us this truth: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerning." (I Cor. 2:14) As nuts cannot be eaten in the shell, neither do they show the sweetness of the meat within until the shells are broken, so it is with the precious truths and realities of the Word of God. Unless the Lord opens up our understanding, it is impossible to know those things that pertain to the Kingdom of God.
It is from man's interpretation of the Word of God, that so many strange doctrines have been brought forth in all ages. When man brings his human reason and wisdom to bear upon the Word, and the Word is not spiritually discerned, it can be made to prove almost anything. All the gross foolishness of the religious systems with their candles, crucifixes, incense, altars, images, robes, programs, ordinances, missals, ceremonies and creeds are but products of carnal minds applied to the Word of God. And some of the wild ideas advanced by "end-time" groups are just as void of truth and reality! When the Spirit, however, who is the Teacher and the one who LEADS INTO ALL TRUTH, reveals God's thought and purpose to the man or woman who humbly waits in God's holy presence, such treasures are uncovered. As "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man;" the heart rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory at the unfolding of the Father's magnificent purpose of the ages. God reveals to those who love and fear Him, the deep and wonderful treasures in this GARDEN OF NUTS.
It is the blessed Spirit of wisdom and revelation from God that ushers one into the Garden of Nuts. With deep reverence and gratitude, we praise God that the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God; or, literally, THE DEPTHS OF GOD; and He reveals them to us. The Word of God has neither sweetness nor juice, neither food nor strength, to those who do not feed upon it continually, to those who do not approach it prayerfully, alone with God, away from the crowd, away from the babbling voices of Babylon's merchants, away from the table, away from the television, in the presence of God's indwelling Spirit with the determination to come to the sweet, nourishing meat that is hidden away in every hard nut that it contains. To those who yield to God in humility and prayer and earnestly seek to claim and possess HIS FULLNESS, the Word of God is made LIFE to the inner man and the Word has a glory that increases as one enters more and more into its mysteries.
As the Spirit graciously leads us in the Garden of Nuts the letter (the outer husk or meaning) is done away that we can arrive at the hidden spiritual meaning, the kernel of the nut. The letter of the Word has no nourishment nor power to transform one son of Adam's race, any more than the outer shuck of a nut has sweetness or nourishment to sustain life. But when the Holy Spirit OPENS UP THE WORD, there is richness, and nourishment, and power, hidden away at the heart of every Word that is proceeding out of the mouth of God. God is the only one who can break these hard nuts of His Word, He is the only one who can take away the outside meaning of the letter, and introduce us to the Word of God; and take heed that no imaginations of our own get in. Let us not draw back and insist upon remaining in only one small corner of the Word of God; let us be so pliable in His hands, that He can lead us on into all the orchards of His Garden, into all the riches of His truth.