History is marked by a
recurrent crisis which has three aspects. Whenever God has
considered that the time has come for judgment, that ordeal by
fire has involved these three issues. Judgment is not only
penalty or punishment; it is firstly discovery and uncovering.
Then it is discrimination and putting things in the category to
which they belong because of what they are. Finally, it is
passing sentence accordingly, and fixing destiny. This is clearly
observable in all the Divine visitations in the history of
nations and of the people of God. It will be fully and ultimately
true of the last phase of this present world-history -
disclosure, discrimination, destiny.
We have a very clear and
definite instance of this represented in the fiftieth Psalm.
It has not yet been finally
settled as to what part of history this Psalm belongs. Who this
Asaph was is not certain. The conditions referred to in the Psalm
do not very well fit into the national situation in the time of
David and Solomon, when Asaph was the leader of the music. They
are more like those of a later time when that glorious epoch had
passed and the glory faded.
But it does not really matter;
the Psalm embodies God's work of judgment at any time of
visitation, and the aspects are clear.
Firstly there is the
delineation of His fullest and highest thought; that which is His
standard, His desire, His joy; that which is His satisfaction.
"God... hath spoken...
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty..."
God has an object and a pattern
to which He is committed, and this is the background against
which His judgment is placed. God cannot judge until He has
clearly shown and revealed that which He desires and that for
which He has made every provision. Judgment will ever be
according to the will of God, as revealed and known; or, at
least, as made available to knowledge.
In this Psalm, as in so many
others, and in the Prophets, Zion is the synonym for that which
embodies the full pleasure and satisfaction of God's heart and
mind. In the New Testament, Zion is no longer any earthly point,
but is synonymous with the Church ideally; which, again, is
Christ in corporate expression (Hebrews 12:22,23).
This Divine conception and
intention has been fully and gloriously revealed to a whole
dispensation through the last 'Letters' of the Apostle Paul. We have
this revelation, and it will be over against this revealed
mind of God that judgment is to take place. In the sovereignty of
God there is a great renewal of attention being drawn to these
'Church' Letters in our time. Perhaps never was there such a
large place being given to these writings as at this present
time. Upon this basis the judgment will rest, as in the case of
the churches in Asia (Revelation 1-3), for it is here that the
fullest and ultimate thought of God is revealed and presented.
"Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty..." Then
immediately follows - "Our God shall come... a fire shall
devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about
Three things characterize this
'coming to judgment'. We take them in reverse order.
(1) "But unto the wicked
God saith..." (verse 16). "Now consider this, ye that
forget God" (verse 22).
Fearful things are said as
pending for the 'wicked' who are described as those who 'forget
God': those who have not God in their thought when so many
evidences of Him abound.
(2) The middle section has to
do with the judgment of formalism: the judgment to uncover and
reveal what is merely outward and formal. Here is a whole system
of ritual; sacrifices, altars, priests, and ceremonies. The fiery
ordeal will show how much there is in the religious world, that
is, of "truth in the inward parts"; whether it is a
matter of the very life and character, or merely a system of
rites and practices. Here is a massive structure of profession
which will collapse and become ashes in the day when "Our
God shall come".
(3) The gold secured and
"Gather my saints together
unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by
sacrifice" (verse 5).
The last call of God, as
judgment is pending, is a call to Himself. Here then is the call
of God in our time.
The last movement of the people
of God is to Himself: not to a movement as such; not to a
teaching or interpretation of truth; not to a sect or party; not
to an enterprise or mission - but to Christ. The final
true and Divine movement is to the Lord Himself. The sheer
pressure of the conditions in the gathering storm and tempest
will demand a leaving of all lesser interests and objects,
however good a purpose they may have served hitherto, and a
moving toward the Lord Himself. 'Things' divide; the Lord unites.
'Things' must pass; the Lord abides. The time comes when all the
means and accessories which the Lord has sovereignly used will
cease to avail. This includes all the organized side of
Christianity, and the Lord will force the issue as to how much
there really is of Himself.
The basis of this phase or
aspect is the 'covenant by sacrifice'. It rests upon the Cross as
rooted in the very life of His people.
UNTO ME... BY SACRIFICE."
If this little paper could have
any influence with the several thousands who receive it, this
would be what we would desire, for our whole position from the
beginning of our ministry has been that of the Lord above all
else. It is not merely negative, as against this and that, or
wrongly exclusive, as for some particular form or fellowship; but
Christ in all His fulness. We may feel that devotion - more or
less - to the forms or sections of Christianity is often a
limitation to the Lord; but we would say: 'Make the Lord Himself
your supreme object: to know Him, and to increase in His fulness;
and all else will take its measure of value from that.'
So, not other than as spiritual
movement, we would take up this Divine call.
saints together unto me" - with the emphasis upon
"together" and "me".
First published in "A Witness and A
Testimony" magazine, Sep-Oct 1958, Vol 36-5