"By My Spirit"

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - The Divine Testimony

Reading: Hag. 1:1; 2:1-5, 20-23; Zech.1:1; 3:1-6; 4:1-14.

"Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Zech. 4:6.

"And I will give unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks, standing before the Lord of the earth... And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them... And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death" Rev. 11:3-4, 7; 12:11.

Thus we see the reappearance in the book of the Revelation of things which are mentioned in the prophecies of Zechariah. There are more than we have read. For instance, in Zech. 2:1-2, we have the man with the measuring line in his hand going to measure Jerusalem "to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof"; and in Rev. 11 we have something very much like it - "There was given me a reed like unto a rod: and one said, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein." Different prospects, of course, are connected with this measuring. In Zechariah the prospect is a bright one; in the Revelation it is very much otherwise.

Then we have two witnesses; in Zechariah: Zerubbabel and Joshua, and the two witnesses of Rev. 11; and in connection with them two olive trees said to be two anointed ones; and in Rev. 11 two witnesses, two olive trees, anointed ones. In Zechariah we have Satan, the adversary as the Accuser; in Rev. 12 - "the accuser of our brethren is cast down." In Zechariah we have the seven spirits, the seven eyes of the Lord, and you know in the Revelation that occurs several times - chapters 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6 - "the seven Spirits of God"; the seven eyes of the Lord. And there are other similarities, as we shall see. But I am not saying that both sets relate to the same thing or to the same time and the same immediate purpose. What I am pointing out is that there are these similarities; identical terms used in both cases.

Well, there are many mysterious things in these Scriptures. We make no claim whatever to understand them all, but there is no doubt that a definite and clear message arises out of them for the Lord's people and I am sure that understanding can be had if, under the anointing of the Spirit, we are able to resolve all the parts into some broad issues. Those broad issues come out quite distinctly as we stand back and look at all these things and seek to see what they do represent or imply. I think I can summarize for you those broad issues. They seem to me to be six.

1. A Divine testimony represented by the lampstand or the candlestick.

2. The vessel of that testimony - the temple or the house, or, in the New Testament, the church and the churches.

3. The people of the house and the testimony; in the Old Testament that company which came back from exile. Of the millions who went into exile, only some forty-two thousand made the sacrifice required to come back. They became the people of the house, the people of the testimony.

4. The two features and functions of the vessel of testimony: the double anointing, Joshua and Zerubbabel representing priesthood and government.

5. The adversary of the house and the testimony. He is always there. We see him in Zechariah in the place of power and we have to discover what it is that gives him the place of power. Then we see him in defeat, overthrown, and again we have to understand how the adversary is overthrown, and on what ground.

6. The basis and means of the triumph of the testimony. "This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might" - the word there I think really relates to military power and could be rightly translated 'not by an army' - "nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts."

So we have all these mysterious things which in themselves are very difficult to understand, resolved into these six major issues.

Now, all those things apply both to Zechariah with Haggai, and the Revelation, without our trying to say that the two witnesses of Rev. 11 are Joshua and Zerubbabel come to life again. We do not need to strain the interpretation and application if we see what the spiritual principles and implications are and what really lies behind this. Out of it all there arises a very strong message for the people of God at all times, especially in this dispensation, and more especially at the close of the dispensation, and you need not be shut up to any one of the schools of prophetic interpretation.

I am not going to worry you very much about those schools. You know there are different schools of prophetic interpretation. There are those who believe that it has all been fulfilled in history past. There are those who believe that it is being fulfilled through the dispensation, and there are those who believe that it has all yet to be fulfilled, and there are two other schools mixed in with them - those who interpret literally and those who interpret spiritually. It is not necessary to be bound up finally and exclusively with any one school; they are all right, and they are only wrong when they limit it to their particular interpretation.

This message is an abiding message for the Lord's people, but of special emphasis at an end time. Haggai and Zechariah represent an end time in the old dispensation and the same spiritual principles and features arise in the end time of this dispensation in the book of the Revelation. So we find ourselves with these things in the presence of a message which is peculiarly for our own time as we believe it to be the end time of the dispensation.

The Divine Testimony - the Glory of God

Having said that as a general survey and summary, we can begin to get down to the different phases of it and spend a little time now with the first of these things which arise from these Scriptures - the Divine testimony, symbolized in Zechariah in the candlestick all of gold. Many of you are familiar with that. I do not want to go over the ground which exists already in a little booklet on "The Candlestick All of Gold", which is a survey of the fourth chapter of Zechariah, but I do want to come to this in some still deeper and fuller way than is there.

What is this Divine testimony which, while it is the thing through all dispensations which governs and dominates and is supreme, becomes of such particular importance and significance at an end time, which God brings into view in such an emphatic way at end times? What is the Divine testimony? I wonder what your answer is to that in your own minds? The answer which I have to give, which I am persuaded is right, but am still open to further revelation and enlightenment from the Lord, is that the Divine testimony is the glory of God. The candlestick all of gold; the glory of God.

If you think for a moment, you will see that that is so along the two great lines of history, the spiritual history of man; firstly along the line of everything that is from God's side, for everything from God's side issues in God's glory. Why, immediately your familiarity with the Word of God will make that clear. Whenever God does something, the issue of it is His glory and that is why He does it, that is His concern. We will come back to that in a moment.

There is the other line of spiritual history; everything that comes from Satan seeks to hide that glory, seeks to mar that glory, seeks to rob God of that glory. You can always tell by the effect what the object is, and if the glory of God issues from what God does, then you conclude that that is the object of God's doing it. And if the glory of God is veiled, covered, darkened, marred, spoiled, by Satan's activity, then you know what his object is.

The Glory of God Behind Every Divine Movement

The glory of God lies behind every Divine movement. Begin with humanity in general, at large, and it is made quite clear that man was created for the glory of God. The intention lying behind the creation of man, the bringing of that species of beings into God's universe, was that God thereby, therein, there-through, should be glorified. That was the intention of God in humanity as a whole. In the Mount of Transfiguration you see in an inclusive way God's intention realized as to humanity, a representative Man glorified with the glory of God and now in the glory as the Man inclusive of that humanity which will be glorified, revealing the glory of God.

But humanity failed in that purpose in the first instance and then you have a line of antediluvian saints and patriarchs: Abel, Enoch, Noah; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph - and in them God is at work for His own glory. The testimony of God is bound up with every one of them.

To understand Abel and his coming on to the scene in this great drama of the ages, you must recognize that what is bound up with Abel and Abel's sacrifice is the glory of God. Over against that, Cain stands to take the glory to fallen man; he is cast out, but Abel lives and is immortalized.

So with everyone till you come to Abraham, "The God of glory appeared unto... Abraham" (Acts 7:2). Why that designation of God in that connection? It indicates what the end is that God has in view, taking up this man that by him the glory of the God of glory should be recovered and shown forth; and we have to study Abraham's life at every point with that in view. We have thought of him as representing certain particular spiritual things and quite rightly so, but the sum of it all is the glory of God. We do not understand Abraham until we see what his life at every point and as a whole is related to, and when we get to the end of that life we have to say, "Here is a triumph for the Divine testimony, here is something which goes down to the glory of God for ever!" Trace the man's steps and see. If you and I knew something more of the triumph of faith which was wrought in Abraham, more of hoping against hope, believing when things were impossible, overcoming absolute impossibilities by faith and turning them into realities, would that not be to the glory of God? Yes, that is the testimony.

Isaac is that - the glory of God. And Jacob, one of the most despicable characters in Holy Writ, and God does not cover it up, but lets it be fully known for this very purpose that He might say the most wonderful thing that ever was said - "I am the God of Jacob." That is to the glory of God if He can do something with Jacob; He can do something with you and me if He can do something with Jacob. That is the glory of God.

The design of humanity, in which humanity failed as a whole, was the glory of God; it was the design in these Old Testament saints, but they never reached the full glory of God. The design was passed on to Israel and taken up in a corporate way, and that is why Israel was raised up, and if we fail to see the glory of God in the case of Israel, then we are blind indeed. This is a terrible story, this story of Israel. The forty years in the wilderness alone, provoking God Himself almost beyond measure, but what about afterwards and ever since? Israel's story is a terrible story, but the glory of God is bound up, not with a people concerning whom it could be said that they were the most choice, the most delightful, the most lovable, the most devoted, the most faithful among the nations of the earth. No, the Lord said He had not chosen them because they were better than other people. It sometimes seems that He had chosen the most difficult of the peoples of the earth. Ah, but therein lies His glory, and in the days of their faithfulness to the Lord, oh, how the glory of God was manifested to the nations of the world, and that is why they were raised up. But they failed finally, and the testimony was passed on and taken up in the church, taken from Israel and "given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt. 21:43) as the Word puts it.

So this vessel of the testimony, the church, was brought in and at its beginnings the glory of God filled the house. It was brought in for that. God was greatly glorified in the church for some considerable time. The object of the church is that - to be the vessel of the testimony for the glory of God, and the church has failed. The book of the Revelation opens with the failure of the church generally and the testimony is passed on to the overcomer, the last phase of the testimony, the overcomer and final triumph (Rev. 12); the glory of God.

I am quite sure that it will help us a great deal if we recognize and keep in view all the time what it is the Lord is after in our own individual case, and in the case of His people. He is not after this or that or some other thing with us or with His church, His people. Let us be very careful what we mean or imply by the phrase - the testimony. That can become merely an interpretation of truth, a system of doctrine, some particular form of creed - though it might not be called a creed, it is that - it means this and that and something else, and that is the testimony. These things may be in the testimony, but the testimony is something deeper than that, something greater than that. The testimony of God is the glory of God, and we are here for that, and it is all gathered up from humanity as in the original intention of God, through Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and all the rest, and the church and the overcomer. It is all gathered up into His Son, and Christ becomes the sum of the testimony of God. He came to vindicate God, to establish the glory of God and to meet and deal with everything that marred that glory. He was able to say, "I have glorified thee on the earth" (John 17:4), and to His disciples He said, "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8), assuming that that is the end of everything, that is the object in view - "My Father glorified."

The matter with which we are concerned and which concerns us more than anything else is that God is glorified in us and by us, and all God's dealings with us are to have that as the issue - His glory. That will be the issue if we will believe it. Yes, very dark and terrible times, and experiences which seem to have no prospect or promise of glory will come. It looks like despair and shame, defeat and calamity, but that is how things do look again and again in the history of God's ways with His people, but that is not the end. "I would have you know that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel" (Phil. 1:12). Philippi looks like a disaster, calamity; it is an inner dungeon, men beaten, broken in body, but the issue is the glory of God. The church again and again has been plunged into seas of blood and it looked as though Satan was triumphing. But what is the issue in the long-run? - the glory of God every time, and Satan overthrown, defeated. In Christ God has secured His end and His end is sure, and if we abide in Christ, the issue of all the dark days and the dark ways is going to be glory.

We are bound up with the Divine testimony. This is a glorious fact with a glorious issue, but it is a challenge. It demands an abandonment to that Divine end, an abandonment to the glory of God. That is the thing which governed Abel's life and Enoch's life and the life of those men of old. It is the thing which governed the lives of the apostles and the saints at the beginning, and many since.

What is really the governing thing in our lives? Is it the testimony of God, the Divine testimony, the glory of God? Oh, I know every one of you would say yes to that! We would all say quite strongly and swiftly, "Oh yes, my one desire is for the glory of God, I want my life to be for the glory of God, I want God to be glorified in my whole life!" Yes, that may be true and our hearts may be perfectly honest and sincere as we say that, but it is possible for even such hearts to stand back on that issue a score of times every day because this question of the glory of God touches so many practical matters.

The Glory of God to Govern in the Matter of Relationships

It touches that matter of relationships. Where there is a strain, a not getting on together, where there is a drawing apart, how is that going to be dealt with? Only by this one thing absolutely mastering our hearts - the glory of God. We have to look that thing squarely in the face and say, 'Does this glorify God? That is the only thing that matters!' If not, then so far as in me lies, this is going to be altered, whatever it costs! That is where the pinch comes.

Sometimes our own pride, feelings, interests, something dear to us, just gets in the way of the glory of God. For God to be glorified, we have to get off our stilts, down off our high horse, down from our pride, get very low and let go to God, yield to God for His glory. The question of the glory of God just touches everything and anything in our lives, and what a false position it is, how inconsistent for any of us to say that we are here for the Lord's testimony, and for that simply to be a matter of Divine truth and doctrine, some fundamental truths of the gospel, when the testimony of the Lord is the glory of God. If we are going to be for, and if we are going to uphold the testimony, we have got, at every point, in every matter, to deal with things in the light of how they touch the glory of God and how far the enemy has a part in them to mar that glory; he is always there. So the great motive against the enemy and for the Lord is the Lord's glory.

That has been the strength and dynamic of much suffering. Many have been able to go through much suffering and not even have deliverance because they have felt that God could be glorified most along that line and they have found grace in suffering. God ministers grace to those who have His glory at heart. "Them that honour Me I will honour" (1 Sam. 2:30).

So the thing that is in view is a candlestick all of gold, a testimony which is all the glory of God. I say again, that comes up in a peculiar way at the end of the dispensation because the enemy is so much more intensely active to get the glory. Oh, you see today in this world how it seems almost impossible for God to so help men that they do not take the glory to themselves. A little bit of success, a little bit of prosperity, a little bit of victory - our feat of arms, our wonderful men, our wonderful generals, our great traditions. It is the old stuff of which we are made coming up again. It seems impossible for the Lord to do anything for people today without the glory being taken by the people, by men. There is a greater bid than ever at this time for the glory of this world, the kingdoms of this world, as over against God than there ever was in history. Standing over against that, God must have some who hold the glory for Him against it all, a vessel of His testimony. It is a very costly thing.

Now that is as far as we will go for the time being. The Lord write that word in our hearts!

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