Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

September-October 1962

In our last Editorial - in speaking of the earth-touch - we broke off with 'maybe more later'. Well there is more, and this is the 'later'. Our premise is that this earth and all in it lies under a curse and judgment, but that those "born from above" are fundamentally separated by the Cross of Christ from this earth, in a spiritual way. But most of the troubles in Christianity are due to some spiritual contact with, and involvement in that realm of death where the Divine ban operates. We are going to illustrate this with very vivid instances in the Bible. Most of our illustrations will be the cases of servants or people of God, which will give just the point that we are trying to make. It is when the Lord's people touch this earth (in a spiritual way) that trouble ensues.

We begin with Abraham. As to his fundamental separation there is no question. That he was a committed man of God allows of no doubt. But at a point when faith was sorely tried in view of seeming impossibilities - actual impossibilities naturally - he resorted to a natural way through, and tried to resolve the situation by natural means. He came down from his heavenly position of "with God all things are possible" and touched earth when he resorted to Hagar as the solution.

We need not enlarge upon the entail of shame, regret, and tragedy, not only in his own life and that of Hagar, but right up to date in Ishmael. That earth-touch has indeed stood as a mighty warning to all such. It is the earth-touch of an alternative to faith when the natural can offer us nothing.

From there we move on to Jacob. Rebecca had been precisely told that of the two sons about to be born "the elder shall serve the younger". In her obvious favouritism for Jacob it is unlikely that she had said nothing of this to him. But together they connived at securing the birthright by cunning, deceptive, and lying ways. It was undoubtedly an earth-touch. Coming down to a low and carnal way of trying to effect the purpose of God. The result - twenty years of dishonour; deceiving and being deceived; extending the doubtful way of success (?); policy, not principle. Success has no law - the end justifies the means, and all such specious arguments. But Jabbok and Peniel are God's verdict and appraisal, and even one chosen in the sovereignty of God will not get away with an earth-touch.

Joseph stands very high in the verdict of history and the noble of Bible biographies. But, undoubtedly, one definite aspect of the long years of the prison - being forgotten, and "the iron entering his soul" - was the discipline of that earth-touch of pride, conceit, and vanity which led him to tell his dreams to his brethren. Dreams which came true, yes, but when personal self-importance obtrudes itself even into the Divine intentions the whole thing can go down into death and suspense.

We leap the years and arrive at Moses. Here again we are in the presence of Divine sovereign intention and purpose, both as to the object and the instrument: the object - to fulfil the promise to Abraham, to bring his seed as a great nation out of bondage to possess the covenanted land; the instrument - a babe miraculously preserved and a man richly trained. But in manhood - the earth-touch; putting his own hands on the purpose and work of God, and by his own zeal, strength, and prestige essaying to effect that which was to be for ever one of the greatest testimonies in history to the power and glory of God alone. The result - forty desolating years at the back side of the desert; a scholar, trained leader, prince of Egypt eating his heart out while tending a few sheep. His feet had touched the earth in more than a physical way, and there was more than a physical meaning in the Lord's words at long last "Take off thy shoes from off thy feet". There is no earth-touch with God.

It is another long leap to Joshua and Ai. What a lot of Divine history and sovereignty, to say nothing of patience and faithfulness, lie behind the eventual arrival of the people in the Land. Surely all the assurances and encouragements given to Joshua will not permit of a single wrong threatening the whole issue with disaster! But so it was! "Achan... took of the accursed thing", and the surge forward was brought to an untimely stop with no small consternation to Joshua and Israel. The earth-touch of personal ambition, covetousness, and lust for personal gain.

We conclude the survey by reminding ourselves of the disastrous results of David's counting of Israel. It is possible to make even the great blessings of God the ground and occasion of self-gratification; to point to that which is just of His grace, His mercy, and His faithfulness, and draw some satisfaction and congratulation to our own souls. It cost David the loss of many thousands of his people, shame and remorse to himself, and a stain upon his story. Yes, God in sovereign grace never cast him off but still brought the site of the Temple out of the chastisement of David's flesh.

What a story this earth-touch is! We have by no means covered all the ground. We could add many more instances from Old Testament and New Testament, but this is enough to underline the essential heavenly life, position, and government of the people - and servants - of the Lord, and to make us reach out to see if there be any leaven in our house. The Lord help us ever to keep disentangled from the realm and things of death. How we need to

"Dwell in the secret place of the Most High", and so "Abide under the shadow of the Almighty".

Surely this gives point and meaning to our Lord's words: "Abide in me".

So help us God.


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