John 11:38 – 44; Genesis 18:23 – 33; Deuteronomy 9:12 – 19; 1 Samuel 7:5 – 10; James 5:16 – 18; Daniel 2:14 – 23
I have read these scriptures just to bring out this thought that there is no situation so dreadful but it can be met if only we get the divine ear. I speak first, and rightly so, of our blessed Lord. What a situation confronted Him! One that He loved was in the grave; had been dead four days, and the stone was at the mouth of the grave. How is a situation like that to be met? I know, of course, that the Lord meets it by the power that is in Himself inherently as “the resurrection;” for He says, “I am the resurrection” (John 11:25).But the other side is that He is heard. He stands in the presence of that situation, and He lifts up His eyes to heaven and says, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me; but I knew that thou always hearest me”. No one else could say that – “I knew that thou always hearest me; but on account of the crowd who stand around I have said it”. He says this that we might get the gain of what He is doing; that we may understand that the situation, however dreadful, can be met if only we get the divine ear. Martha says, “Lord, he stinks already, for he is four days there”. However dreadful the conditions may be in any town, it can be met if we can get the divine ear. The word to us is, “I am Jehovah, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
What is it, dear brethren, that makes it possible that we should be heard? Well, firstly, it is as we are entirely committed to the will of God in any matter. If we will accept that in our measure, He will hear us. The Lord Jesus said personally, “My food is that I should do the will of him that has sent me, and that I should finish his work” (John 4:34). The Lord approached this matter in relation to the will of God, and He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God” (John 11:4). He is committed to the will and glory of God at all costs. I would like to say this to you, that there is nothing impossible in any locality if we will commit ourselves solely to the will of God and His glory. If that is really and truly governing us, God will listen to us and give us what we ask.John says, “And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him” (1 John 5:15). The Lord says, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me”, then He says, “Lazarus, come forth”. The position seemed utterly impossible, but it was met by One who was heard.
Now let us consider men of like passions with us, whom heaven heard. If God was prepared to hear them, is He not prepared to hear us? Surely, if God was prepared to hear Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Daniel, then He is prepared to hear us. Indeed, the situation that exists today, the privilege, the blessing, and the food, is the consequence of someone being heard. There are those, one says humbly, to whom heaven listens; and we all want to come into the ranks, in every locality, of those who have the divine ear. So we have Abraham. God is standing there listening to Abraham and communing with him; Abraham making requests and God listening from point to point, as Abraham travels downward from fifty to ten. The conversation is only stopped when Abraham stops. God did not break it off. Abraham went as far as he felt he could go, and then he ceased; and God was ready to grant him every request. Now let us enquire, What is there in Abraham that thus secured the ear of God? – for he was a man like us. The position was that a whole city was threatened with destruction; and in that city there were brethren. There was Lot – Abraham’s brother – and his household; and that city was facing imminent destruction, and Abraham prays. He is not part of Sodom; he dwelt in Mamre. He is entirely outside, and free from the atmosphere of Sodom. He has judged in himself what is in Sodom; so that as he draws near to God who is about to turn those cities into ashes, he says, “I, who am dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27), which means that I have judged in myself what Thou art going to look into in Sodom. Now God will listen to that man. Abraham spoke to God in his prayer, as much as to say, I have been in the fire and reduced to ashes in myself what Thou art going to judge in Sodom. God listened and He will listen to us if we are apart from what is evil in any place, as having judged the thing in ourselves. Now I commend that word to everyone. We may pray and pray and pray, and God will not hear us if we pray as superior to the persons or the place involved. But if we pray as having judged in ourselves what God abhors, then God will listen to us and give us what we ask.
Now we come to Moses. What was imminent in his day was that a whole nation was to be destroyed; not only a city but a nation. God says to Moses, “And now let me alone, that my anger may burn” (Exodus 32:10). “Let me alone”. Did it not suggest that Moses might not let God alone? – that Moses might intervene between God and the judgment? God says to him, “And I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation”. What an appeal, dear brethren, to the human heart that was! But Moses does not let God alone; he says to God, “Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, For misfortune he has brought them out, to slay them on the mountains, and to annihilate them from the face of the earth?” (Exodus 32:12). And in another place he says, “Lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because Jehovah was not able to bring them into the land which he had promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to kill them in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 9:28). Again he tells the people, “I stood upon the mountain according to the former days, forty days and forty nights; and Jehovah listened unto me also at that time” (Deuteronomy 10:10). What a wonderful sight that is! – a man intervening between God and the judgment of the whole nation. God had said, “Let me alone”, but Moses pleaded the name and glory of God. He was free from any self-interest, God had offered him personal glory, but Moses said, ‘No; Thy name will be affected, Thy glory will be tarnished;’ and he tells us that “Jehovah listened to me also at that time”. What we may learn, dear brethren, is that if we are free from self-interest, self-glory, self-seeking, and have God before us and His glory, God will listen to us in any matter.
Samuel is another man whom God heard many times. His very birth was on that principle: “asked for of God” is the meaning of his name. What was imminent in Samuel’s case was that the Philistines would get control of Israel; that what is natural – man’s mind – would supersede what is spiritual. The Philistine represents the natural mind dominating and controlling the realm of what is spiritual, and it was imminent that the people would fall into their power. Israel were greatly afraid, and they come to Samuel and say, “Cease not to cry to Jehovah our God for us” (1 Samuel 7:8). In another place Samuel says, “Far be it from me that I should sin against Jehovah in ceasing to pray for you” (chapter 12: 23). He said this even in spite of what they did in rejecting him. Now, with the Philistines at the door – and how many times the Philistines stand at the door, dear brethren, in our day – and it looks as if the power of the natural mind would sweep through the land, and what is really spiritual, emanating from the Spirit of God, would be set aside. But Samuel prayed, and how does he pray? He prays, dear brethren, as wholly dependent. There is the Philistine with his giants, and his great head and his mighty weapons and his coat of mail, and Samuel is praying with a little sucking-lamb in his hands, presenting it to God – a sucking-lamb that could not live without a supply from another, the very personification of dependence. If there is a truly dependent man, consciously needing resources from Another, from God, from Christ, God will listen to that man. Jehovah answered Samuel, “And Jehovah thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were routed before Israel” (verse 10). We have seen it in our day, thank God! – some great thunderings in the Philistines’ camp, consequent upon a Samuel drawing near to God in true dependence in the spirit of a sucking-lamb, pouring water out before God in the acknowledgment of absolute weakness, and God in heaven listens and answers. I suggest these thoughts that they may serve to stimulate our hearts to prayer and to conditions that God may hear us.
Of Elijah, James says that he was a man of like passions to us, so it is intended to be a word of encouragement for us. James tells us that Elias “prayed with prayer that it should not rain; and it did not rain upon the earth three years and six months”. He saw conditions in which it was imminent that the whole nation would pass over to idolatry and apostasy. That is what was threatening, and Elijah discerned that the only thing that would save them would be a period of intense discipline. So he prays earnestly and the heavens were shut up, and a period of great privation came upon Israel. It was to save them from apostasy, that is what Elijah prayed for, and he himself was prepared to suffer with them. He did not go about blaming the people, complaining, and comparing that area with another area. He suffered with the people, thankful to accept what there was by divine ordering – day by day, morning and evening, dependent on the ravens. Then the widow with a little meal and a little oil maintains him, but Elijah suffered without murmuring. If it meant a period of leanness for Israel, he was with them in the suffering, in order that they might be brought back to God.
Then he prayed on another occasion. He was now in a little meeting, so to speak, where there was only a little, maybe, but it did not waste. The meal did not fail or the oil either till the Lord gave rain. They may not have had wonderfully good times, as we speak, but they had enough; and there is always enough if Christ and the Spirit are recognised without any complaints. In that locality, the widow’s son dies, and the child is laid on Elijah’s bed; and he goes up and prays. Just think of that! Here is a dead child. What can anyone do? It says, Elijah prayed. What did he say? He asked God to send back that child’s spirit, and his spirit did come again, but before that blessed result was reached, the mother owns her sin. The root, dear brethren, of death coming into a place is the sin of those responsible. The mother says, “Art thou come to me to call mine iniquity to remembrance, and to slay my son?” (1 Kings 17:18). The loss, too, of families is due to the sin of the parents, and there is no hope. You cannot pray until that is owned. Unless those responsible in any situation are honestly prepared to come right into the open and own their sin, it is impossible to really pray. When she acknowledges it, then this man of prayer kneels down and asks God to send life, and He does it. I believe, dear brethren, in every locality where we mourn the loss of families, if the parents particularly will take on the shame of the sin as their own sin, then we have a basis on which the saints can pray. God will send back the spirit into the dead body and make the child to live. But while we put off the responsibility, or ignore it, prayer is hindered.
“Again he prayed”, James says, “and the heaven gave rain, and the earth caused its fruit to spring forth”. He prayed at the sacrifice, “Answer me, Jehovah, answer me, that this people may know that thou Jehovah art God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (1 Kings 18:37). And the fire comes down from heaven and consumes the sacrifice. And then he goes up again and prays with his head between his knees for a season of bounty and prosperity, and the heavens gave their rain; first in a very small way – a cloud as big as a man’s hand to begin with, but it is heaven operating consequent upon the prayer of Elijah. The secret of all this with Elijah is that though entirely unknown as to his previous history, it was known to God as being right. If we want God to listen to us, then what is secret, known only to God, must be right or else we cannot get the divine ear.
Well, Daniel also was a man accustomed to pray. When threatened with being cast into the lions’ den, he opened his window towards Jerusalem three times a day and “prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10). He gave thanks as well as prayed. Such a man was Daniel! In this scripture (Daniel 2:1 – 16), the trouble that is imminent is that all wisdom is to disappear. All the wise men are to be slain. What a terrible thing if in New Jersey there was not a wise man left. That is what the devil would do, dispose of every trace of wisdom. Daniel speaks to his three friends, and they ask God for something that humanly is utterly impossible. Nebuchadnezzar had had a dream, and he asked them to do the impossible, or he would slay them. How often an impossible situation presents itself, but Daniel and his friends go to their houses and pray, and the language of Daniel afterwards is magnificent. “I thank thee, and I praise thee, O God of my fathers, Who hast given me wisdom and might, And hast made known unto me already what we desired of thee; For thou hast made known unto us the king’s matter”. What they had prayed for was granted to him.
Such a man is listened to in heaven. Why, dear brethren? Well, there are many reasons, no doubt, but one thing that is said of Daniel is that they could not find any fault with him except in relation to his God. Those presidents who were jealous of him, they had looked into his matters, they had gone to his office, they had gone to his home, and they had been through his ledger. They had been through his public matters in relation to the government, and they admitted that all was faultless. There was no hope of getting a charge that way. And, dear brethren, we want to take that home. If we want to be heard, our public responsibilities must be right; as our business and family matters are gone into, things are found to be right, for God sees everything. Daniel was faultless on all these matters. He and his friends were separate from the course of the world around them, living on pulse and water; that is to say, finding Christ sufficient for their food. If we are not satisfied with the pulse and water, and want the king’s meat, and prefer the food and joys of this world, we may have them; but heaven will not hear us. I commend Daniel to everyone here. If we want heaven’s ear, we must have the pulse and water for food and drink; that is, Christ and the Spirit sufficient to build constitutions fairer and fatter than the king’s meat ever can. And then, things that others can investigate publicly must be right, as they were with Daniel.
You will see, dear brethren, that all these situations represent conditions that are impossible to men, but there is nothing that God will not do for His people in any place, in any locality, or for any brother or sister, there is nothing that God is not ready to do, if we pray. But on our side, Can He listen to us? Have we conditions to entitle us to the divine ear? John says, “And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him” (1 John 5:15).
May the Lord help the brethren to get the divine ear as to matters, and provide a moral basis for God to listen.
Chatham, New Jersey, June 1939