Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

January-February, 1968

As we send out this first issue of this little paper in this, its forty-sixth year, and break upon one more stage of the unknown future, I think that I could do nothing more helpful than to dwell upon the words of our motto for 1968:

"Ye have not passed this way heretofore" (Joshua 3:4).

"He knoweth the way" (Job 23:10).

"Certainly I will be with thee" (Exodus 3:12).

Isn't it strange how we gravitate toward the apprehensive aspect of a confrontation? Already I have found people who, having seen the motto, immediately exclaim: 'Hello, what is coming now? What are we going to have to meet in 1968?' Perhaps heavy difficulties in the past or present do create some predisposition to fear or apprehensiveness, but such a reaction to the motto is to do two unfortunate things. First, it is to detach the first part from the remainder, and so to get out of balance; and then it is to take the words away from their great context in the book of Joshua. Balance and confidence will be restored or established if we remember that it is equally a part of the truth that, in all the uncertainties of the future, "He knoweth the way." That is, what is quite hidden from us is already present to the knowledge and sight of the Lord. There is nothing that can take Him unawares, and be an emergency.

Then there is His categorical affirmation: "Certainly I will be with thee."

This should counter all fear. But when we have got our poise on these assurances, there is still the wonderful context. It is the context of a prospect, not a tragedy. The people had reached the point where they were about to enter upon all that for which the Lord had chosen, called, and prepared them. All His dealings with them were about to have their purpose realized. There may be battles, as surely there will be. There may be more lessons to learn, but there is going to be a mighty victory placed right under their feet at the very beginning. Jordan, 'overflowing its banks', is going to be deprived of all its power to overwhelm them. 'Death will be swallowed up in victory' before they proceed into the future! The Lord's intention for them has already become His realization. "I have," says the Lord. "You proceed on that."

There is, however, an element of warning or counsel in the context of the words concerning the unknown way. The ark was going ahead, but they were to put two thousand cubits of space between it and themselves. They were to "come not nigh it, that they might know the way". We know the ark represented both the presence, nature, and purpose of the Lord. It is, in effect and fact, the Lord Himself in charge of everything; His sovereign government. There was a man later in the history of the ark who got too near to it and assumed the responsibility and control; he perished tragically and lost the way.

How we project ourselves by fear, anxiety, mistaken responsibility into what is God's government! We shall only lose our way and God's support if we - in our heart - take His - alone place. Sometimes our very subjectivity can involve us in confusion, when we should have our eyes on the One who has done all for us. We need to contemplate those two thousand cubits in the light of the letter to the Romans, and remember that - without careless irresponsibility - He has the initiative; the way and the end are with Him. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." That is really the message of the motto. Perhaps a ray of sunshine would be let in if we reversed the order of the words thus:

The Lord has said -

   "Certainly I will be with thee."

   'I know the way.'

   "Ye have not passed this way heretofore."

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.