"And beginning from Moses and from all the
prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning
himself... And he said unto them, These are my words which I spoke unto you,
while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which were
written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me"
"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy
Spirit" (Rom. 15:13).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3).
That is the message of the resurrection of our
Lord Jesus from the dead. And it is that note or that fact that God is the God
of hope, that runs right through all the Scriptures. Viewed from one standpoint,
the Bible, the whole Bible, centres in and circles round this one thing: God is
the God of hope by resurrection - in other words, by the triumph of Life over
There is very much of sin and death in all the Bible, very much indeed,
but they are not the last words. When all has been said about sin and death, it
is Life that ultimately emerges. If the Bible did not begin and end with Life,
we might well say that it is the story of sin and death. But it does begin with
Life and it does end with Life, and all that lies between the beginning and the
ending is just the material for the God of hope to show, to prove and to
demonstrate the supremacy of Life over sin and death. God commenced with Life
as the supreme factor, and although death did spread its dark shadow over all
the earth, and although death did so persistently assert itself against Life and
raise its evil and ugly head so constantly, that head was just as constantly
bruised, and the issue was with Life and is with Life and will ultimately be
with Life. It is a grand thing that our Bible, which is the sum of human history
and this world's course, ends with such a glorious picture - fulness of Life, a
river of water of Life. The God of hope... that means that in every dark
situation, God never despaired and never gave up. He knew the tremendous power
of resurrection, of Life.
And so this twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel
by Luke brings to us the whole course of the Bible and the Scriptures - to Moses,
the prophets and the Psalms - in terms of Christ's conquest of death, for the
central point of the chapter is that the Christ ought to have suffered and to
enter into His glory through death and resurrection and what resurrection means: the
manifestation of the very essence and nature of incorruptible Life. That is
glory, that is the meaning of glory. Let us then be taken back once more,
not to repeat what we have already said, but be taken through very hurriedly
with this great thought, this great reality - the God of hope by resurrection.
We have seen the invading of God's beautiful
world by this foreign element of death, and we have seen how so soon it began to
strike out and smite right and left, beginning with Abel. Sin and death moved
out in vicious malice to assert themselves against God's testimony of Life and
to seek to preach their 'gospel', to fill the earth with their gospel (which is
anything but a gospel) that death and sin are the masters and the lords of
creation. But even when Abel becomes in a sense their victim and is stricken
down, God is triumphant; Life is triumphant. This sovereignty of God in Life
works right in there, and we have to move right on through many centuries right
into our New Testament era to be told and to have it made perfectly clear, that
Abel was not swallowed up in death, that was not the end. We hear an inspired
prophet saying about Abel, as about many others to whom we refer in a moment, "These
all died in faith, not having received the promises, God having provided some
better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect
(complete)" (Heb. 11:13,40) which, if it says anything at all, means that
Abel comes to his completeness with us, and Abel lost nothing but gained a lot.
He is included in all that which is gathered into one word: 'better'. It was
better for Abel. That is God's triumph always: it is better. Sin and death do
their worst and reach as far as they can, and then they think, as they stand
looking upon the prone body of their victim, that they have triumphed, and God
says - Something better! The God of hope... whereas to human eyes it looks like
despair and the end.
You see the setting of Enoch's life in a world
full of sin, full of iniquity and full of death. It is no new observation and no
new thing upon your ears that Enoch is mentioned right in the midst of a long
and almost monotonous line of people who died and are buried. So-and-so died and
was buried, and another one followed him the same way, and on they go, this
mortal procession, graves upon graves, men marching to death and the grave. And
then right in it there is this break. "Enoch walked with God" and he did
not go into the grave, "he was not; for God took him" (Gen. 5:24). Just
right in the setting of the working of sin and its outcome in death, the
testimony has its flame maintained in one man, one lonely man, but the whole
testimony hangs upon that one man. And the testimony is that he does not go the
way of death, he goes the way of life. "He was not, for God took him". Of
course there is so much more bound up with all these people. We are just
touching on the one thing - the continuous testimony of the God of hope.
The next is a very dark scene indeed, the days
of Noah. God looking and seeing the iniquity of man, that it was great upon the
earth, and God repented that He had made man. It is always a problem to me why
it should be put like that - God repenting, seeing He foreknew - but we will not
stop with intellectual problems. It surely means that God saw something that He
just could not accept. So in the days of Noah there is this practically
universal operation and activity of sin and of death, meriting a universal
grave, and so the deluge, the flood. But when sin and death have become almost
utter, almost absolute, when the whole earth seems to be swallowed up in this
mighty apparent triumph and conquest of sin and death over life, God maintains
His testimony, wherein eight souls were saved - seven plus one, the plus one is
always resurrection. Eight is always that. The God of hope, even in a scene like
that, maintaining His testimony of resurrection, and death does not wholly
triumph, death is vanquished in that simple vessel, that apparently small means,
but it is sufficient to contradict worldwide sin and death. And so, however
great it is, here is something which, according to human measurements, will not
compare, but according to intrinsic values is more than all that. Apparently a
little thing upon a mighty flood, a little handful in a great world populace, a
little representation in a mighty overflowing of sin and death... but it
triumphs. It is the corn of wheat so small in the mighty earth, but it is
sufficient. It has the power in itself to make nothing of all the rest. It is
From Noah to Abraham. Abraham's whole life was
marked by this very principle of the God of hope. In many different ways the
principle of life triumphing over death is to be found in Abraham's life. But we
gather it up into the final scene of which Paul makes so much. Abraham the old
man, the aged man, taking himself, so to speak, up into a corner and looking at
himself and saying, "Abraham, you are an old, worn out, wrinkled man, and there
is no prospect in you at all, no hope in you at all." Paul says that "he
considered his own body now as good as dead" (Rom. 4:19). He looked at
himself and said, 'Abraham, you are dead.' And when it seemed that the way of
nature and the way of death was working to its ultimate conclusion, it was just
there that God intervened and raised His testimony in Isaac, so that the
cumulative and culminating testimony of Abraham's life is resurrection over
against death and is hope over against utter hopelessness. He "in hope
believed against hope" (Rom. 4:18), he believed in the God of hope. "There
sprang of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of heaven in
multitude, and as the sand, which is by the sea-shore, innumerable" (Heb.
11:12). Paul carries that argument a long way in his letter to the Galatians. He
carries that on to the Seed, the One Who is the life springing out of Abraham's
death. That is wonderful.
Isaac - we have said much about Isaac in
relation to this very thing, but once more we must recall the complete
impossibility of Isaac having a being at all on any natural ground. There was no
accounting for Isaac apart from the God of resurrection, apart from a Life that
is more than a natural life and is different from a natural life. His being was
because of the working of that other Life figuratively. And then the great
central and inclusive event of his life which, as we said the other day, is the
explanation of Isaac altogether, for there is not much else in his life that is
of account, very little indeed that matters very much. He just came into this
world and went out as representing one thing - a resurrection from the dead. The
God of hope represented by the lifetime of one man with just that one thing -
His resurrection Life.
Through his life there were various points at
different times when, but for the intervention of God, Jacob would have gone out
and would have carried on no testimony, but there at the end is the
cumulative testimony. Jacob and his sons have become involved in a worldwide
famine and the prospect is no prospect at all for life, and in this wonderful
sovereignty of the God of hope, as Joseph said - "God did send me before you
to preserve life" (Gen. 45:5) - God working. When Jacob has come to very old
age and death is descending upon him and upon his family to blot out the
continuance of this testimony, God is acting sovereignly.
And how sovereignly did God act in the life of
Joseph! We have seen that, just for one thing, that the testimony should not be
blotted out, that it should be carried forward, that the God of hope should be
the God of His people. I think we need not stay with Joseph. We have seen how
that man went far down into death, death brought upon him by evil brethren and
by evil men and by the evil powers behind all. And if ever a man's situation spoke
of hopelessness, I think Joseph's did at one time. In the dungeon and
forgotten, his soul entered into iron and he was tried by the word of God. It does
seem a hopeless situation, but it is one of those romances of this God of hope.
He, by this sovereign intervention, is rescued and is delivered.
Israel in Egypt
We pass on from the individuals again to the
corporate, to Israel in Egypt. We used the phrase that it sometimes seems as
though the forces of evil get the people of God in a trap with no way out, and
surely that is how it seemed with the children of Israel after the death of
Joseph in Egypt - as though they had been caught in a trap and there was no way
out, and there they are. How often the word 'bondage' is used about their
situation. All the way afterwards whenever their time in Egypt was referred to,
it was always referred to as the 'house of bondage'. They were captives, and, as
though the Lord goes out of His way to accentuate the reality of their bondage,
nine plagues, nine mighty judgments upon Egypt failed to release them. Truly
this is a death house. Yes, and then at last death, and they are only delivered
from death by a very definite and specific act of God. The house of bondage is
plundered, the God of Life destroys the power of death which held them there.
The end of the story of their time in Egypt is just the glorious declaration of
Life triumphing over death, of a mighty resurrection as from the dead. There it
is. Israel in Egypt, the testimony of Life, the God of hope over against a very
terrible state of despair.
Israel at the Red Sea
The Red Sea - what a situation. They themselves
were in terror that night. They knew that if for a moment that strong east wind
were to subside, that was the end of them as a nation and they would be
overwhelmed. Death was like two mighty walls on either side, and death was
behind in the pursuing Egyptians. The Red Sea was a scene of death, but the God
of resurrection got them to the other side.
Israel in the Wilderness
See how the testimony is being kept alive all
the way against death, and yet when they got into the wilderness and had had
their good sing about their deliverance, all too soon, almost immediately after
that very singing of praises it seems, they turned to their murmuring and to
their grumbling. They came to Marah and found the waters bitter and they
murmured. This was another threat of death, for, if God did not again do
something, it was death for the whole nation. He intervened at Marah, He gave
them sweet water for bitter and saved them alive. Soon after it is the question
of food. How are they going to be provided for in the wilderness? And God sends
them manna out of heaven. You know what the Lord Jesus makes of that: He links
it with Himself as the Bread of Life from heaven. It is Life in a scene of
death, Life in a wilderness where no one can live, except miraculously.
They come to Rephidim. Again it is a question
of life and water for life, and the rock is smitten, and they are saved again.
It is one long succession of interventions of God in terms of Life against
death. God is fighting out this battle. They come to Sinai. You know what
happens at Sinai, when Moses goes into the mount to receive the testimony, and,
after being there so long, the people's patience having worn thin, he comes
down. And here is the noise of singing and shouting and dancing, and the
terrible disclosure of the calf and alliance with that whole kingdom of iniquity
which is under judgment and death, and this certainly means death for the
nation. Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Whoso is on the
Lord's side, let him come unto me". And all the sons of Levi went over to
him. You remember what Malachi says about that right at the end of the Old
Testament. "My covenant was with (Levi) of life and peace" (Mal. 2:5),
and Malachi dates it back to that very incident. The covenant was made with
Levi, the covenant of life and peace, when Levi separated themselves from this
iniquity and the nation was saved. God intervened, Life triumphed over this
sinister breaking in of death - Life again.
We remember the murmuring against
God and against Moses, and then the fiery serpents, the nation being mown down
by this very symbol of sin and death, the embodiment of sin and death, the
serpent. Then the elevation of the brazen serpent, the look of faith and the
situation saved. For all who will look, it is Life again triumphing over death.
And you know what the Lord Jesus made of that as to Himself. "As Moses lifted
up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that
whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life" (John 3:14-15).
To Kadesh - spies sent out; the report brought
back; the majority, however, negative; and the Lord saying that nation shall not
inherit; back into the wilderness to die. But two men become the nucleus of
another generation, and in Joshua and Caleb you have God's reaction to the
universal death of that nation - to raise up another people on the grounds of
Israel at the Jordan
And when He has got Joshua and Caleb and the
new generation, and the old has died, this new generation in Life has triumphed
over sin and death. He puts that nation very definitely upon that basis for all
time in the Jordan. Just visualise the scene again. What I am trying to indicate
is the continuity of this testimony of the God of hope and resurrection.
Visualise that scene at Jordan. The people have to get to the other side of that
Jordan, and God is not waiting until the Jordan is at low ebb, and is just a
trickle and they can easily scramble over. "The Jordan overfloweth all its
banks all the time of harvest" (Josh. 3:15), and it was at that time that
God chose to get them over, to get them through. Death, yes, death at flood, but
this people going through without a touch of it. It is all, of course, so highly
figurative, but there it is, God bringing a people through the flood of death
without being touched by death, absolutely victorious over death.
Israel in the Land
We go through the whole books of Joshua and
Judges, and there this story continues in many aspects. See in the book of
Joshua the great reality of Life triumphing over death. The atmosphere and scene
changes somewhat with the book of Judges, for sin and death have spread their
dark cloud again over the nation, but God is not allowing His testimony to go
and to be swallowed up. Here He is again and again intervening to keep His
testimony alive, and there are some glorious epochs even in the book of Judges.
There are some wonderful things as of the God of hope in that book. But it is a
sad story. The book closes... well, how does it close? So far as the actual book
is concerned, it seems to close in death, it seems as though now the
testimony has faded out, now it has gone, now the enemy has triumphed - a dark
situation. Yes, but you know it was just there at the end of the book of Judges
that the book of Ruth came in. It belongs to that period.
And what is the book of Ruth? It is a very
beautiful little story, but more than that, it is a scene of death. Here is the
famine again, here is Naomi leaving the land, and going into the land of Moab.
It is all death, it seems as though there is an end of everything. But the
sequel? Well, to make the story short, the sequel is Boaz, Ruth and Jesse, the
father of David, and what a new prospect that presents! What a wonderful new
outlook there comes with the house of Jesse. David is on the horizon. In the
darkest day, when it seems that sin and death have well-nigh blotted out any
testimony at all, God works so quietly, so simply, so beautifully. Yes, away
there in distant Moab He has His vessel. He will bring that vessel back into the
land, and through that vessel His testimony will flame up again and become
brighter than ever.
And yet that is not the end of the dark story,
for then we move right into the first book of Samuel, and the situation again is
that of the Judges. Everything that is of God seems to be at the lowest ebb, in
the heaviest shadows. Eli, his sons, the meeting place at Shiloh... the whole
situation is terrible. But there in the country is another woman praying. Hannah
is travailing in soul and Samuel is born, and Samuel is God's hope for the whole
situation, he is God's reaction and God's promise. Samuel comes in to carry on the
testimony. It is again in a scene dark and terrible that the God of hope raises
up His testimony in another vessel to carry it on. There are lots of dark things
in the days of Samuel even, but Samuel holds things for the Lord, and, although
Saul does come in and seem once more to threaten the prospect, to write failure
over the testimony, to get in the way, definitely get in the way of God, God
does not give up and He brings in that son of Jesse. He has had His eye upon him
quietly outside the scene, the Lord was taking account of David in the field.
Samuel said, "The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart" (1 Sam.
13:14). The Lord had been looking round to find His man, and there he was out
there, outside of this scene, quietly carrying on in faithfulness his day to day
work, counting upon God, trusting in the Lord. For he said later - "The Lord
that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear..."
(1 Sam. 17:37). He had evidently trusted the Lord in those incidents. He said,
'Now, Lord, You see me through this.' He was quietly walking with God and God
was watching him, and he is the answer to this terrible situation brought in
through Saul. He is God's link in the testimony.
David himself goes through many experiences of
death. I do not know what the Lord Jesus used from the Psalms, as it says in
Luke 24. I think He may have taken something out of the second psalm about
Himself, He may have taken something out of the eighth psalm about Himself. Out
of the twenty-second - "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Out
of the twenty-third psalm and others. I do not know, and I am not going to say
that what I say, He said. But I do see this: that when He referred to the Psalms,
He referred to the book which contains the history of a man who went down and
then went up. That is the story of David; the man who descended, the man who
went down. Ah yes, down, tragically down, sometimes terribly down, sometimes
down by his own sin, down by his own fault and weakness, down, terribly down,
but up, up. "When I fall, I shall arise" (Micah 7:7). A man of
I think it is a marvellous story, the story of
sovereign grace in David's life, seeing that it is in David's life that we are
allowed to see the most heinous sins, things that shock and scandalize
everybody. And weaknesses. Was not his very driving out of his kingdom by his
son Absalom the consequence of his weakness? Absalom was a murderer, and David
brought him back without repentance, and forever after David's throne was weak.
You cannot do that - bring in the murderer. You know where the murderer comes
from. "Ye are of your father the devil... he was a murderer from the
beginning" (John 8:44). And David brought Absalom back on sentimental
grounds, and you cannot be sentimental with death. Death is an awful enemy. Do
not sentimentalize about death. David brought him back in weakness, and he was
made weak. But with all, and the terrible mistake of numbering Israel against
the advice of even quite a carnal man, numbering Israel, and involving himself
and his nation in that devastation when again the nation was being mowed down.
But deep as were the deaths, terrible as were the situations which seemed to
speak of hopeless breakdown, he is the man that comes up in the sovereign grace
of God. He stands in all Israel as the pivot of Israel's life. It is to David
that God is always pointing, after all, as the man and is glad to speak of His
own Son as the Son of David. Sovereign grace - and the testimony is carried on
ever like that. Oh, what time we want to pursue this matter right on through
the life of David.
And then the tragedy of Solomon's dividing of
the kingdom, and things seem to be going from bad to worse now. It does look now
as though things are going to come to a sorry and terrible end. The kingdom is
Then we move into the next part of the Lord's
dividing of the Scriptures - "Moses and... all the prophets". But when we
come to think of the prophets, we know that they were set in this dispensation
or this part of the dispensation which was most characterised by sin and death.
The sin of idolatry, the sin of forbidden communication with the powers of evil
through idolatry, and the darkness is deepening: the kingdom divided, Judah
under Rehoboam, Israel under Jeroboam, and what a sorry story it was. With a few
short breaks and flashes of light, in the case of Hezekiah and one or two
others, it seems that now everything is engulfed, it is going down. But in the
midst of it all, even with such a one as Ahab, of whom it says that there was
never a king who provoked God as Ahab did, (what a dark situation - Ahab and his
evil spouse Jezebel) we are in the prophets, and Elijah is on the scene. God is
reacting, and if Elijah represents one thing, he does represent a mighty
challenge to this thing, and his life here and there is just characterised by
this overcoming of death. The testimony is being kept alive by the Lord. Elijah
is kept alive as the vessel of the testimony in a miraculous way. He himself is
maintained on this very principle of Life overcoming death. From the brook
Cherith he goes to the widow of Zarephath. Her son dies, and is raised from the
dead and given back to her.
This man (you know the story of how it was
done) himself is the embodiment of this master thing: Life. We have the great
incident of Carmel when Baal seems to have covered the land. Baal worship seems
to have captured everybody. There seems to be nothing of the Lord. There were a
hundred prophets hidden in caves by Obadiah, but there seems to be almost
complete conquest of the evil forces... and then Carmel. I need not tell you
about Carmel, Elijah challenging the whole range of this evil thing in the Name
of the Lord and breaking it. Once again the testimony flames up.
And if we really want cumulative proof that
this man stands for this very thing of Life triumphant over death, it is the end
of the man and his translation to glory. Death does not overtake him or capture
him. He eludes and he triumphs over death and is taken up in a chariot of fire to
heaven, but not before he has left a very good representation of the testimony
behind in Elisha, who, in many more ways than his master, declares this great
truth of Life, mighty Life.
First there are the waters of Jericho and of
the falling fruit before it ripens, the outworking of that very curse which
Joshua pronounced upon Jericho. "Cursed be the man before the Lord, that
riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: with the loss of his firstborn shall
he lay the foundation thereof, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he
set up the gates of it" (Josh. 6:26). There was a curse on Jericho, its
waters are cursed, and there is no life to bring things there to completeness
and perfection. And the men of Jericho came to Elisha and told him their labours
were vain because of these evil waters, and through the new cruse and salt they
are healed. Life triumphant over death. So he goes on from place to place.
Out to the Shunammite woman, her son, given by
miracle, dies and is raised again. The sons of the prophets go out to gather
food, come back with the deadly pottage, and Elisha heals with the meal, and
life is saved. A hundred men are starving and with twenty loaves he feeds them.
If you knew the size of the loaf out there you would see the miracle, just
twenty little loaves, and one hundred starving men. That is the miracle. It is
life, continuity of life. Naaman, the Syrian, marked by that deadly thing,
leprosy, and healed. The work of the sons of the prophets in building their new
home interrupted, the incident of the axe-head falling into the water, and
Elisha making the iron to swim, and right on. And again himself at the end
dying, in his sepulchre; bands of the enemy coming, a dead man cast into his
sepulchre and when he touches Elisha's bones he revives and lives. The man from
beginning to end is this: Life triumphant over death.
And it is just at that point that Jonah comes
in. The Lord Jesus took that up. "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh
after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the
prophet: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale;
so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth"
(Matt. 12:39-40). Resurrection - the third day raised again. You cannot fail to
see this thing proceeding. It is something that is running all the way along.
Israel in Captivity
But now we come in full view of the captivity.
Iniquity has spread and has got deeper and deeper and stronger and stronger in
its grip so that the prophets appeal in vain. They warn in vain, they plead in
vain. We listen to Jeremiah, to all his heartbroken pleading. We listen to
Isaiah with all his warning, and those others of the pre-exilic prophets and
their ministry, but it has no effect, and away they go... Israel to the Assyrian
captivity, Judah to the Babylonish captivity. And now we say, That is the end,
sin has won now, death has triumphed now! But we are not through the Old Testament
yet. There are other prophets who, while they are telling of the grave into
which the nation will go, the grave of captivity, of exile, a terrible grave,
they are almost with the same breath telling of resurrection. Ezekiel away there
with them in the grave, but not in the death, prophesying his prophecy of the
dry bones that are going to come together, to live, to stand up again. Isaiah
looks beyond the captivity with some of the most glorious things in the whole
Bible. God is not giving up, however the situation may appear. There are men
there like Daniel and Ezekiel in the captivity, holding the testimony in Life
with death all around.
The Return of a Remnant
And then we read the lovely little books of
Nehemiah and Ezra - 'a remnant shall return', and they do, and we move on at
last to Malachi when "they that feared the Lord spake one with another; and
the Lord hearkened, and heard" (Mal. 3:16). I think the Lord found, although
in so few, something very satisfying to His heart because it answered all the
rest. This is His answer in this company. Even so, Malachi's prophecies are
shadowed with sad and terrible conditions, and the Old Testament closes.
The Birth of Jesus
We know the history of the next
four hundred years between the Testaments, those violent and heroic
fights of the Maccabees to keep the testimony alive. We know of the rise of the
great world empires. Babylon has already arisen, the Medo-Persian empire, the
Greco-Macedonian empire, the great conquest of Alexander, and they are all
focused upon Jerusalem and upon Israel. They are all circling round that. That is
the bone of contention, the heart of the whole thing. It seems dark and terrible
God's Reactions in the
History of the Church
And you open your New Testament. The Roman
empire is in existence, the others have all gone down. You open your New
Testament. Need we say any more? Jesus is born, the battle springs up again. In
His first days, these evil forces set to work to engulf Him, but God sets to
work to preserve. God is doing things as well as the enemy. Then men conspire,
men plan, men provoked by the very devil himself, are bent upon the destruction
of this One; and at last it seems they have won. They have crucified Him, He is
dead. They have done their work. Sin has conquered, death has triumphed. Has it?
God raised Him from the dead!
It is a great story. I have only given you the
bare outline of it, but it is a great story. The God of hope! How
hopeless it seemed again and again. How the evil forces seemed to triumph so
frequently. How sin seemed to be the master power. And it has been like that
ever since. The church has been plunged into this and again and again it looked as
though the testimony was gone, the flame is well-nigh quenched. Through the Dark
Ages, as they are called, God has marvellously moved. It is a wonderful story,
the story of these past centuries, of how God has preserved a testimony, and it
is not dead yet, and we look on through our book of the Revelation and we know
how it is going to end. Oh yes, great contentions, contentions on earth and
contentions in heaven, but the issue - caught up to the Throne of God and Life
Some Practical Points of
Now, that is the story. It is worth
telling, it is worth tracing, but it can just remain there as a story to us. I
must bring it very briefly and quickly to some practical points of application.
Do note that it has not only been a matter of God reacting and overcoming and
subduing or subjecting this dual foe. It has not just been that. It has been God
taking hold of that very thing to turn it to fulfil His purposes. That is
something more. God is not only conqueror. God is more than conqueror, and to be
more than conqueror does not mean that you just kill your enemy and then destroy
him and tear him to pieces after he is dead. That is only being conqueror. Being
more than conqueror means that you take his strength and add it to yours.
One is negative, the other is positive.
That is illustrated in a little incident in the
Bible in the life of one of the prophets of whom we have been speaking. Elisha
and the besieged city wherein he was because he has been giving the enemy's
secrets away to the king of Israel. In the morning the prophet and his servant
woke, and saw the city surrounded and the servant said, "Alas, my master! How
shall we do? We are surrounded by an army!" And the prophet, almost
frivolous, said, 'Don't you worry about that, there are more for us than they
that be with them'. And the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he saw the
mountain full of horses and chariots of fire. And the prophet went down to the
army and said, 'Lord, smite them with blindness' and He smote them with
blindness. And the prophet seemed to tell a white lie. 'This is not the place
you are looking for: follow me, I will show you what you are looking for'. He
led them into Samaria, into the city, and they were captives now. When the king
of Israel saw he had them at his mercy, he said, "Shall I smite them?"
Elisha said, 'Will you smite those who have become your prisoners? Give them a
good hearty meal, provide bread and water, and let them go to their master', and
he provided a meal and let them go. "And the bands of Syria came no more."
He was more than conqueror. He might have wiped them out but had made them
friends. It is an illustration of how the Lord has all the way through turned
this very thing - sin and death - to positive gain in different ways.
Firstly, He has used death to remove that which
can never be glorified, and that is something. That which can never be glorified
is taken away in death. You see that principle again and again, and that is
really the meaning of the death of the Lord Jesus, to get out of the way all
that cannot be glorified. That is why the Lord is applying His Cross deeply in
our lives, to get rid of all this that cannot be glorified: self, this nature,
this natural life, and all that - to get it out of the way. It can never be
glorified. He has used and is using death in that way. Every recurrence of death
in the case of the people of God has been a purging thing.
Now follow that through. It delivered them from
something. How the Lord finds in us things that are in His way, some kind of
obstruction, this strong selfhood of Jacob, whatever it might be, He finds that
in us. He must apply the Cross. It has got to be broken, and He takes us into an
experience of death, a deep experience of death of the Cross, and we come out.
That thing has been dealt with, we shall not have so much difficulty with that
again. Maybe there are other things to go the same way, but that has been
touched. So the Lord uses the death for deliverance, for purging.
And then what shall we say about the use of
death to bring us to a deeper knowledge of Himself? What we owe of our knowledge
of the Lord to our dark and bad times! We will not say an untrue thing if we say
that there is little knowledge of the Lord apart from knowing Him in the power
of His resurrection, necessitating the fellowship of His sufferings.
Then how He has used death to release from
limitation. If the Lord Jesus is the great example of that, how through the
Cross and through death He was released from all His limitations, then how He was
enlarged through death in resurrection! The principle holds good. We are
limited, we are tied up. We go into some deep, dark experience under the hand of
the Lord, and it is a liberating thing, it is an enlarging thing. David cried, "In
pressure thou hast enlarged me." A strange way of getting enlargement, but
it is very true to principle.
Well, of course, all nature proves this, that
through death enlargement comes. Death has been and now there is the
enlargement, there is development and growth. Release through death and enlargement
through death. God has written the law everywhere, but He has written it
especially in the spiritual life of His people. The great truth is that He has
not only conquered and crushed, but He has turned to account His enemies, He has
made them serve His ends. We do not know the meaning of Life, real divine Life,
except as we come to know something of the Cross.