Proverbs 25:1 – 40; Revelation 3:7 – 11; Revelation 10:9 – 11; Revelation 11:1, 2; Ezekiel 44:15 – 18
It is in mind, as the Lord helps, to say a word about what is genuine as over against what is merely profession. Scripture helps us in considering this. Timothy, for instance, is spoken of as one who would care with genuine feeling how the saints get on (Philippians 2:20). Paul could trust him; and it is to Timothy that Paul speaks of laying hold of what is really life (1 Timothy 6:19). At that time the saints, according to Paul’s ministry to Timothy, were being warned about what was false and apostate coming in. It is still more so today, so the injunction to Timothy is the more for our heeding at this time, that we might lay hold of what is really life.
Then we read elsewhere that love is to be unfeigned (Romans 12:9), or without dissimulation. We have hardly any need to say that in the world love is practically unknown according to what it really is as springing from God; but the saints know it, for they have the love of God poured out into their hearts by the Holy Spirit, so that there is liberty and ability, especially in the christian circle, for love to be expressed in its unfeigned purity.
I might mention, too, in thinking of what we are in our assembly setting, that the Lord hates indifference. I would seek your grace as I utter a word of warning, I believe I may say on the Lord’s behalf, in regard to indifference. The Lord says to the church in Laodicea, “because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). It is a figure of what is most obnoxious, for the Lord would have us take on His own feelings of hatred for what is neither cold nor hot but completely indifferent, indifferent to the best and brightest days of the truth. Therefore I believe we can see the need for genuineness, dear brethren; it will prove itself if it is there, for a person who is going on with God and with the truth will make his own way, and will be seen to be approved of God, known of God. It says, “if any one love God, he is known of him” (1 Corinthians 8:3). God has many things for those that love Him, but this is, perhaps, the sweetest of all, that God knows him. That is, He definitely establishes a link with such a person, and writes him in the books of heaven. The youngest of us may be in this book; we are in it as loving God; therefore let us love God.
This brings me to my scriptures, which I would use to bear upon reliability in our persons, in our regard for ministry of the truth, and in the service of God. Proverbs 25 is a remarkable chapter which brings in a new setting. There are several in this wonderful book; the first section goes over about nine chapters, the second section begins with chapter 10, and the third section begins here, presented to us as being the “proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah transcribed”. That is to say, they came to light in a day of recovery. Hezekiah’s day presented a most remarkable recovery, but there was opposition too. Sennacherib came up with all his scorn against Jerusalem (2 Kings 18, 19). The enemy is coming up now with all his scorn especially in regard of the assembly. He has his ways of doing it: some are open, some apparently insignificant, but they are insinuating ways of darkness and hostility, all directed against the assembly. What Sennacherib could not take account of was that in that day God was recovering His people, just as He is doing in our day. We have been lost and are becoming recovered to the full light of the truth; and in transcribing these proverbs we are to understand, I believe, that we are coming into the very best things which the Son has caused to be written. Solomon says, “I was a son unto my father” (Proverbs 4:3). They are worth holding to, dear brethren, whether they are the high things, “the heavens for height”, or the deep things, “the earth for depth”, connected with the death of Christ. He descended into the lower parts of the earth, and then it says, He “ascended up above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10).
How great are those depths and heights! These are amongst the things which come into mind in the day of recovery. God is bringing them into mind in connection with His Son. He does not blazon everything abroad; He conceals matters. Mystery is written over Christianity, and, we might say, over the Christian, or so it should be. A Christian is not understood; there is mystery attached to the public life and movements of one who is really Christ’s. This springs from God, for God conceals things.
If I speak to anyone here who is finding his life in the world, I may say, quite simply but truly, there is no mystery about you. You may think you hide things, but your life is open, your thoughts and pursuits are open. There is mystery about the believer, just as they said about the manna, “What is it?” (Exodus 16:15). That is its name; it was never described in any other way but by that mysterious name, Manna, “What is it?” We never see through the life or Person of Jesus; there was always something mysterious even in His public teaching, something which we can never fathom, and in character it is the same with the believer. God has hidden things for us, and as we search them out He tells us. The Holy Spirit, who is God, searches them for us, for He searches the depths of God. How wonderful it is to be a believer! I trust all here, including the children of the saints, are believers. These meetings are not merely for the grown-up persons; the children sit with their parents and the great desire is that all may be believers, and be found in the company of those who have these marvellous privileges.
One trait of a genuine person in Christianity — and I speak of Christianity though I have read from Proverbs — is that he judges himself. That is something which a man in the world never fully does, the reason being he has no power to do it. A believer has power, he has the knowledge of God, and by means of the Spirit he is able to show himself a genuine person by judging himself. He takes away “the dross from the silver”, and leaves a “vessel for the refiner”. I would ask the dear brethren to ponder it. Jacob took away the dross from the silver. Every time God spoke to him, a little further work was done, until at one time God came down and stayed with him and spoke to him in a way of holy friend-ship, and then went up from him (Genesis 35:9 – 13). Think of God coming down to a person like any one of us, as with Jacob, and staying awhile, talking, putting impressions into the soul, and then going up. That is worth far more than the best that this world can offer you, education or anything else. Education never leads us to God, nor provides a basis for God to come down and be with a man.
If we come to our own day, how wonderful were Peter’s experiences, cleaving to the Lord while owning his sinfulness (Luke 5). What but a spiritual experience could bring us to such a state of things as that, asking the Lord to go away, and yet cleaving to Him? Likewise Jacob wrestled with the man and said, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26). The “man” was really God, and this is Jacob speaking to God, not God speaking to Jacob.
These people are people who learned to judge themselves, and as such they come out as vessels for the refiner. It does not mean that all the refining is done; it does not mean that the first touch with Jacob, with Peter or with ourselves completes the work; there is much more to be done. But the vessel is now in the right hands, it is in the hands of the Refiner, and He will do the rest gradually. Some of it will be tender service like the “washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26); some of it will be drastic like “a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s lye” (Malachi 3:2), which has a sting about it, but we are such that we need this. God is not concerned with disciplining persons in whom He has nothing; He leaves them. He says, “I hated Esau” (Malachi 1:3) — a very solemn word.
A genuine person in the Revelation, as we have read, is referred to under the title of the Jew. The term Jew here does not mean the Jew nationally, it refers to the genuine person (Romans 2:29 refers to the person in this way). There are those according to Revelation 3 who say they are Jews and are not; they lie; so we are not thinking about Jews nationally, but we are thinking about genuine persons in our day. In Esther’s day the Jew was the genuine person coming under the preserving hand of God, Mordecai and Esther being helped together practically to provide a way of escape, life and preservation for the Jew.
In this passage in Revelation the Lord Jesus is addressing a company in Philadelphia — meaning ‘brotherly love’ — and He is saying that He really has not anything against them: on the contrary He is encouraging them. It is remarkable that in the two addresses to companies in whom He has nothing to find fault with, He warns them about the synagogue of Satan. I refer to Smyrna in Revelation 2:9: “I know thy tribulation and thy poverty; but thou art rich; and the railing of those who say that they themselves are Jews, and are not, but a synagogue of Satan”. Then in the passage we read in chapter 3: “I have set before thee an opened door, which no one can shut, because thou hast a little power, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.Behold, I make them of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie …” That is to say, the religious persecution under the title of synagogue — and no doubt bringing in many terms and names common to Christianity, but being altogether hostile — is very near; it is really at the door. So we are to warn one another that where there is genuineness it is sure to be attacked.
I understand that there are seven so-called sections of Christianity in these lands where the names, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are named, but the deity of Christ is not only disregarded but refused, and the atonement of the blood of Jesus is also refused.What is that but evidence of the synagogue of Satan standing right over against genuine persons whom the Lord here salutes as Jews — Jews “inwardly”, circumcised in heart and spirit, real believers. That the Lord should say this to two companies against whom He has nothing outwardly is very remarkable, and is to enter into our education lest we should get lulled into a kind of sleep.
The Lord then says, I have kept a door open for you. There is no door open like this in Russia: scarcely one open like this in eastern Germany . We can go on with the service of God, so that we find an opened door spiritually, not only publicly; this is what the Lord has in mind, and no one can shut this door. “Because thou hast a little power”. How often Samson has been brought forward in this, one in utter weakness, but it says, “the hair of his head began to grow” again (Judges 16:22). There was life there, a little power, and that life showed itself in power. Let us not be ashamed of the life that is there; let it come into expression. In Samson power revived in outward weakness, and in principle brought down the whole world of the mind of man. Think of the whole Philistine world being demolished by one man, not strong, but strengthened. What one man may do in such a setting!
The Lord goes on to say, “and hast kept my word”. We should need to look into the Scriptures to see what that means as to detail, but amongst other things it means that we value the truth as it comes. The Lord’s word indicates His mind, and His word comes out in ministry. It includes the great matter of the Lord’s supper. The Lord says of Philadelphia, thou “hast kept my word”. Could we say that? Think of the Lord saying that. He credits them with that, that they have kept His word. He said as to the Supper, “this do in remembrance of me” — then let us do it. If we have not yet taken away the dross from the silver, let us do it that we may keep His word. The footnote i to 1 Corinthians 11:24 is interesting. It says, ‘For the calling of me to mind’: not ‘acalling me to mind’, but ‘the calling me to mind’. There is really no other. It is part of the Lord’s word. “And hast not denied my name”. Abigail did not deny David’s name. David said, “go to Nabal, and greet him in my name” (1 Samuel 25:5), and we know the result: Nabal scorned and flew upon them. The religious world does that, but we are to keep true to the name of the Lord. A young man came forward that day and told his mistress, Abigail, there was going to be trouble, as the name of David had been shamed, subjected to ignominy. So a remedy had to be found, and was found by this woman Abigail going down, not empty-handed, for she had food.
That is the way to start, finding our place as real persons answering to what the Lord credits us with in the place of all the activity of the enemy. The Lord says, I will reward you: “I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial …” One would not like to prophesy about future events, but one is sure about one thing, and that is that the great tribulation, the hour of trial, “which is about to come upon the whole habitable world”, will not find us here. The Lord does not say, You will enter it and I will take you out of it, but “I … will keep thee out of the hour of trial”. It is, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience”. I feel greatly tested as to that, for like many we have thoughts in our minds as to what we should like to do in personal activity: like to go here and there, like to be free from restrictions, free from discipline, or get into a settled position. The Lord does not approve of that spirit. According to the prophet even He Himself says, “I will wait for Jehovah” (Isaiah 8:17). Christ is presented as coming according to the word of God; and if the Lord Jesus is waiting, by the help of the Spirit we can be waiting too. We cannot do it by will power, or by stifling our feelings. It is “the word of my patience” in us by the Spirit. The ministry helps us too, as enlarging these great thoughts.
In Revelation 10 John takes the book and eats it. It is a book of prophecy which need not detain us in detail now, but in our day too we have prophetic ministry, not dealing with times, or seasons, or coming events, but concerning the truth, and I think it would do us good to take it and eat it, so that we feel it inwardly. We say about some of our meetings for ministry, ‘That was a good meeting. I was glad to hear so-and-so’s word’. That is like its being sweet in the mouth, but during the ensuing time it is to work into the inwards of our being. The belly is the inward part of the man where the word is to operate, whence the Spirit is to flow, where things are to be formed, and as the word gets further down and operates there may be reduction with us, a bitterness, but formation and an appreciation of what is genuine. So John is told to go now and measure what is genuine. A man like this, eating the book, is able to discern. “The spiritual discerns all things” (1 Corinthians 2:15), but himself is a mystery; he is discerned of none.
So John is told to “Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship in it. And the court which is without the temple cast out, and measure it not”. The outward thing can be left, as if God would say, I am not concerned about that; presently I am going to judge it; you go on with what is genuine and measure it. How interesting it is to see real souls coming to the meetings and saying, I never knew such things existed. How delightful to see somebody coming along and beginning to measure, and finding genuineness there. So these two things help one another. The prophetic side in ministry helps us to appreciate the worshipping side, the priestly side, and then the priestly side helps the prophetic word again. This is genuineness in regard to the effects of the ministry, that we may be able to measure what is of the truth.
My last remarks are about the sons of Zadok, as bearing on the service of God. “But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall approach unto me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to present unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord Jehovah”. I suppose I speak for all when I say we should like to be amongst them. They are wonderful persons. The Levites are spoken of here as having gone away, and Zadok represents those who replace them in genuineness. It says in chapter 43: 19, “the priests the Levites that are of the seed of Zadok”. That is where we want to be. Then in chapter 44: 10 there is reference made to the “Levites who went away far from me”. So we have to begin to measure what is genuine in connection with the service of God, and to leave out what is not genuine. God will help us in that. We have been hearing a good deal about the grace of the dispensation and its operating. We are all being forgiven; our links with one another are far more gracious than they have ever been. The brethren are making it as easy as possible for us to get into the best, but along with that there is the call for reliability, so that we have to judge the state of things as well as the words.
These sons of Zadok had a very illustrious father, Phinehas, going back through Eleazar to Aaron himself. It says of Phinehas in Numbers 25 that he “rose up from among the assembly, and took a javelin in his hand” (verse 7) — a weapon for what we might call very close conflict, not an arrow for distant battle — and went into the tent where it was necessary for things to be dealt with, and thus saved the brethren. Zadok, too, carried the ark when Absalom was seeking power, and remained in Jerusalem with it (2 Samuel 15:29). He showed his genuineness by being ready in times of conflict. So God says, I have noticed all that, and in this great matter of my service going on these are the ones that shall have the charge of my sanctuary.
We are now in the days of the best. There has never been a time when the service of God has gone so high or been entered into by so many, as at the present time. Inquire amongst the localities where the saints are and you find the story is all of a piece; they are being helped to respond to God in the greatest levels. If you inquire a little more closely you will find that certain things have had to be discarded, some of our old well-treasured impressions, perhaps, born of sentiment, like the wool which produces heat. There is to be no heat in the service of God, no “sweat”. There is to be the coolness and spiritual collectedness suggested in the linen on the head and on the loins; the mind and strength are to be controlled. Peter brings them together; he speaks of “the loins of your mind” (1 Peter 1:13). Ezekiel makes them separate, the mind and the loins; they are both to be kept under control so that God’s service is not spoiled, but kept in all its wonderful height and wealth. These are genuine persons, and the simple desire behind this word is that we might be among them in power, not merely in appearance. God is looking now for the glory, purity and spirituality of His service, and the Spirit is here, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Father — we may say, the Spirit Himself is here to help us in all these things now. May we be helped so that we have our part in these things now.
Newtownards, Co. Down,
4 April 1953