ECHOES FROM EDEN
DRESSING THE GARDEN
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed...to DRESS IT AND KEEP IT" (Gen. 2:7-8,15).
As we have stated repeatedly in these articles on the Garden of God, the gardens and vineyards of the Scriptures are synonymous, meaning, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN on earth. In this very hour the hand of God is planting the plants which He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world, each a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified (Isa. 61:3). Consider now how great are the words of the prophet: "And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and thou shalt be like A WATERED GARDEN...for the Lord shall comfort Zion...and He will make her wilderness like EDEN, and her desert like the GARDEN OF THE LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody" (Isa. 58:11; 51:3).
When the conception of the Kingdom of Heaven begins to be grasped, a new and startling of life dawns in the mind. The first parable given by the Lord Jesus Christ is that of the Sower. It is not merely about the experience of salvation, or the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or the Church, or heaven. It is about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus says of it that it is the parable of parables and unless it is understood other parables cannot be. You must realize that all the parables in the Gospels are about the Kingdom of Heaven and the parable of the Sower is the first. It is starting point of Christ's teaching about the mystery of the Kingdom. In the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, the Lord begins to speak in parables to the multitude. Why? Because He is beginning to speak of the Kingdom of God. His disciples ask why He has suddenly begun to use parables and He says: "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath to him it shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables; because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand" (Mat. 13:11-13).
What is the first mystery that He reveals about the Kingdom? "And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorhed; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Mat. 13:3-9). In the parable of the sower it can be seen that the first mystery is that MEN ARE SOWN AS MATERIAL FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. To call it the parable of the SOWER and the SEED is misleading unless it is understood that man is the seed. Actually, there is no mention of seed. You will note that in the King James Version the word "seeds" is in italics, meaning that the word is not in the original and is supplied by the translators. In Mat. 13:3-4 it is said in the Greek: "Behold the sower went forth to sow and as he sowed some fell by the wayside." The word "seeds" is added in the English translation, so that it reads: "...and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side." what is really meant? What did the sower sow? He sowed MEN!
Jesus begins the interpretation thus: "Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When anyone heareth the word of the Kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side" (Mat. 13:18-19). Greek scholar M. R. Vincent, in his WORD STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, states that the literal, and much better, translation of the phrase "He which receiveth seed" is "He that was sown;" identifying the seed of the parable with the kind of man signified. There is a sense in which the "seed" is the "Word of the Kingdom," however it is plain that in a stricter sense men are meant, and it is interesting to note how verse 19 is translated in different versions:
"While everyone is listening and not comprehending the word
of the Kingdom, there comes the Pernicious One and snatches away that which was sown in his heart. THIS MAN IS HE WHO WAS SOWN AS SEED along the footpath." - Wuest.
"When anyone heareth the word of the Kingdom and understandeth it not the wicked one cometh, and catched up that which hath been sown in his heart, THIS IS HE BY THE PATHWAY SOWN." - Rotherham.
"When anyone hears the word of the Realm and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away that has been sown in his heart; THAT IS THE MAN WHO IS SOWN ON THE ROAD." - Moffatt.
In all these translations Jesus goes on to speak in verses 20-23 of "he that was sown on rocky ground" and "he that was sown among thorns" and he that was sown upon good ground." This is the first startling idea, hidden in the parable. Men are sown on earth as material for the Kingdom of Heaven - some by the wayside, some on rocky ground, some among thorns and some on good soil. It is only those in this last "good ground" class that are capable of flourishing as tress in the Garden of God, the Kingdom of Heaven realm!
The whole earth has been sown with men of various kinds. What kinds? God sowed humanity, a nation, and His Son.
(1) HUMANITY. "God hath made the world and all things therein... and hath made on one...all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the whole earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation" (Acts 17:24,26). "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely THE PEOPLE IS GRASS" (Isa. 40:6-7).
(2) THE NATION ISRAEL. "Now the Lord said to Abram...I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:1-3). "Yet now hear, O Jacob My servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up among the grass (humanity), as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another...surname himself by the name of Israel" (Isa. 44:1,3-5). "Thou hast brought a VINE out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the heathen, and PLANTED IT... and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river" (Ps. 80:8-11). "The Lord called thy name, A GREEN OLIVE TREE... Thou hast PLANTED them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit" (Jer. 11:16; 12:2).
(3) HIS SON. "But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son..." (Gal. 4:4). "For HE shall grow up before Him as a TENDER PLANT, and as a root out of a dry ground...He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:2-3). "I am the TRUE VINE, and My Father is the husbandman. I am the VINE, YE ARE THE BRANCHES: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit. Herein is My Father glorified, that ye near much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples" (Jn. 15:1,5,8). "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but CHRIST LIVETH IN ME" (Gal. 2:20). "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until CHRIST BE FORMED IN YOU" (Gal. 4:19).
The good seed, the True Vine, Jesus Christ, was sown, and a whole new creation shall arise and be harvested, "that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). He who sowed HIS SON shall reap MANY SONS. "For it became Him...in bringing many Sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10). Who can today comprehend that many-membered-body of Christ of which He is the Head? It is true, Jesus has His own body that was raised from the dead and transformed into an eternal body of glory, but there is also this body of His character, wisdom, and power, and it is a GLORIOUS BODY! The Father has long waited for this harvest of MANY SONS. "Behold, the Husbandman waiteth for the early precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until He receive the early and latter rain" (James 5:7). It is my deepest conviction, beloved, that his harvest time is drawing very near and should not tarry many more years.
Ah, yes, the whole earth has been sown with men of various kinds, but in the blessed revelation of the book of Genesis we see that "the LORD GOD PLANTED A GARDEN eastward in Eden" and this Garden bespeaks a special and most favored "planting" of the Lord - the Sons of the Kingdom! The soil in this blest Garden of God is neither uncultivated, stony nor thorny, for it has come under the hand of the Husbandman, being dealt with that life may spring forth abundantly. Thus the prophet by inspiration wrote: "Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain from the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the ...(seed)...this also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working" (Isa. 28:24-25,29). Ah, this explains much of the process through which God's elect has been passing, for the Lord purposes to bring forth a crop, full fruitage, even to an hundredfold, therefore there have been these tremendous crushing experiences which have broken up the hard clods of our pre-conceived ideas and opinions, the rocks of our stubborn self-will, and the imbedded roots of our own fleshly desires and the carnal traditions of religion which resisted the inworking of truth. Deeper and deeper have dug the plowshares of the Spirit, breaking up the fallow ground, grinding, smashing, tearing, loosening, breaking up the self-life until all is subdued before Him, until nothing remains but the fine soil for the seed to grow in. The plowman has not been plowing in us all this time just for the sake of plowing, but the preparation is that there might be the sowing of HIS LIFE, that there might be brought forth a harvest of the same kind. The Christ-life is being sown, and this means the growing up of a WHOLE NEW SPECIES, a new creation which shall ultimately come forth in the image and likeness of God, to the praise of His glory.
Many of the Lord's precious apprehended ones have wondered why we were plowed so deeply, why God allows us to be broken up to the deepest recesses of our beings, but it is that HIS LIFE MIGHT FASTEN ITS ROOTS DEEP WITHIN US, so that from deep within, from our very nature, would spring forth the fruitage of Himself.
THE PLANTING OF THE LORD
One of the beautiful operations of the Spirit of Truth is the way in which the words of Scripture contain so many facets of meaning and application, each sparkling as a brilliant display of spiritual reality, as a many-faceted diamond reflected the diverse colors in light. One glittering gem of truth concerning the Garden of God is found in these words: "And THE LORD GOD PLANTED a garden eastward in Eden" (Gen. 2:8). It becomes very clear in this verse that GOD DOES THE PLANTING in His Garden. Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke this same truth when He said, "The good seed are the Sons of the Kingdom...He that SOWED the good seed IS THE SON OF MAN" (Mat. 13:37-38). The prophet adds his inspired testimony: "...to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the PLANTING OF THE LORD, that He might be glorified" (Isa. 61:3).
Popular religion teaches that a man becomes a child of God "because" he believes, but there has been a childish lack of understanding on this point. A man does, indeed, begin to be a partaker of Christ WHEN he believes, but not because - for the FIRST CAUSE IS ALWAYS GOD, our believing serves as a point of contact, the incorruptible seed of the Christ-life is implanted in our earth when we believe, but the Cause is God, HE initiates the whole process and does the plowing of the field and the planting of the seed, blessed be His wonderful name! Have you considered how great was the truth Jesus uttered when He said, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw Him" (Jn. 6:44). So first of all we must recognize that our being PLANTED IN HIS GARDEN IS TOTALLY OF THE FATHER; He has chosen and called us, the transformation of our lives from earthly to heavenly is the result of His operation, He is working in us, and we rejoice in it! Notice also how the Word declares that "we are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10). Since it is true, as Jesus said, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should bring forth fruit," (Jn. 15:16) we ought not to be surprised at any of the processing which He brings our way - but learn to see the hand of God in all these things, knowing that in due time they shall work into good, and redound to His place each of us in our own particular set of circumstances and life situations. How we love to blame the devil! But RIGHT WHERE WE ARE is where He can best deal with each of us individually, enabling us to truly become overcomers.
One day while traveling along the road to Damascus the mighty hand of God was laid upon a son of Israel, Saul of Tarsus, and after his conversion he wrote: "But it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to REVEAL HIS SON IN ME" (Gal. 1:16). Paul's conversion is a most remarkable demonstration of the sovereignty of God who "worketh ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11). It is quite evident that Saul of Tarsus was not on his way to revival meeting when the Lord struck him down on the road. Saul made no premeditated "decision for Christ" before his conversion. PAUL's WILL was set on the destruction of the Church. But the WILL OF GOD was that the enemy of the Church should become an apostle of Jesus Christ! No mention is made of Saul's "profession of faith." We are merely informed that he received his sight, was filled with the Holy Spirit, arose, and was baptised. So Saul, the "chosen vessel," bore the name of Jesus unto the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15). Paul had total faith in Jesus Christ and was motivated by the love of Christ, yet he never considered himself a "volunteer" for the Kingdom of God. He did not volunteer! He described himself as a "conscript," saying, "Not that I...am already perfect, but I press on to lay hold of and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus has LAID HOLD UPON ME and MADE ME HIS OWN" (Phil. 3:12, Amplified Bible). Paul also explains to the believers at Corinth: "For I take no special pride in the fact that I preach the gospel. I feel compelled to do so; I should be utterly miserable if I failed to preach it. If I do this work because I choose to do so then I am entitled to a reward. BUT IF IT IS NO CHOICE OF MINE, but a sacred responsibility put upon me, WHAT CAN I EXPECT IN THE WAY OF REWARD?" (I Cor. 9:16-18, Phillips). It becomes clear from reading the above verses that Paul did not "volunteer" his services of his own free will, so he explained that he was not entitled to any reward for his ministry. He had no more choice than does a slave, it was a sacred trust placed upon him by his LORD, Jesus Christ.
Let it be known in this day of Babylon's religious systems and hirelings - GOD DOES NOT USE VOLUNTEERS in the sacred work of His Kingdom! It is not something one enters as a vocation, a way to earn an easy living, etc. In God's work you are never "voted in" or "voted out" by the people, neither do you set a price upon your ministry, nor do you work by contract...all such hirelings are SERVANTS OF BABYLON, not servants of God, and will fall with the system, receiving of her plagues, suffering loss and ruin, as all their multiplied works go up in the swirling smoke of her judgements. GOD CHOOSES WHOM HE WILLS. It is just like the advice I heard an old preacher give to young people marriage when I was a small boy. Said he, "Stay unmarried as long as you can: but when you fall so deeply in love with someone until you are utterly miserable and can't stand to be away from them for another moment - then get married!" Ah, beloved, God chooses whom He wills, and SO LAYS THE CALL ON YOU THAT YOU ARE MISERABLE UNTIL YOU GIVE OBEDIENCE. It is a commission from God, not a calling self-assumed. They who take it upon themselves, verily, they HAVE their reward - the clerical reputation, the esteem of men, the good salaries, the pride they take in their vocation, the public homage of being called "Reverend," "Father," or "Pastor," the good works, etc. ARE THE REWARDS FOR VOLUNTEERS. It becomes an earthly call, and it gains an earthly reward.
Beloved, have you ever wondered how it is that out of the billions of people on earth you have come into a living relationship with Christ? Have you wondered why it is that out of your own family, perhaps, or out of your Church background, you are the only one (or of the few) that has received the call to follow on to know the Lord in the blessed walk of SONSHIP? Is it because you are more open by nature, or more inquisitive, or smarter, or more worthy than the others? No! Here's why: "And it was of HIS OWN WILL that He gave us birth as Sons by His Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures - A SAMPLE of what He created to be consecrated to Himself" (James 1:18). Glory!
Oh my soul! Yield yourself to the mighty influence of this word that echoes from Eden: "and the LORD GOD PLANTED A GARDEN eastward in Eden." Take time to meditate and to worship, until the light that comes from the throne of God has shone into you, and you have seen your deliverance out of the kingdom of darkness and your planting in the Kingdom of Heaven as indeed the work of the Almighty Father. And now. in this blessed knowledge, with deep gratitude and unrestrained praise and thanksgiving, take time, day after day, moment by moment, and let, in your whole life, with all it has of claims and duties, of needs and wishes, GOD BE EVERYTHING.
DRESSING THE GARDEN
As the pattern of things in the book of Genesis progresses, we see unfold before our wondering eyes a word which, in the strictest sense, can only be Principle of the Kingdom of God. This word reveals the grand and glorious truth that just as surely as GOD PLANTED EDEN'S LOVELY GARDEN, so certain is it that He then placed Adam in the Garden TO DRESS IT AND TO KEEP IT. (Gen. 2:8,15). As surely as the planting is the Lord's, the dressing and keeping is committed to Adam. These words are far too potent and full of meaning to be read over carelessly, or considered merely as some statement of historical fact to be lightly laid aside and forgotten. Herein lies the source of a river of wisdom and spiritual understanding. This is a gate through which God's chosen ones pass on our way to the treasure house of the knowledge of God. Here are things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man. Here are wonderful and priceless principles by which the Kingdom of God is developed as a living and quickening reality in the lives of God's Sons.
When the Lord declares that HIS PEOPLE are His Vineyard and His Garden we should understand that His purposes are the same now as they were in the beginning when He placed man IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN TO DRESS AND TO KEEP IT. In the Scriptures the Garden of God always represents the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The thought is not only of the Lord's great Garden; but the life of every child of God is a garden within God's Garden. It should be evident to all who have eyes to see and hearts to understand that it was the garden of his own life and soul that Adam failed to dress and to keep. The Shulamite, in the Song of Solomon, at the outset of her relationship with the King confessed her own neglect in this respect, saying, "They made me keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept" (S. of S. 1:6). Though the Lord may let us in different ways, there is a part of the Vineyard of the Lord which He actually gives to each one of us; and that is the vineyards of our own lives.
Adam was a Son of God (Lk. 3:38) and was placed in the Garden of the Kingdom of Heaven to dress and to keep it, but falling to attend to the garden of his own soul, to prune away the desires of the carnal mind, to dig up the weeds of his self-life, he became unfruitful, ready for cursing, as was the tree upon Jesus found no fruit. Under the curse Adam withered and died, alienated from the life that is in God. Can we not see by this that the first work in the Lord's Garden, which He entrusts to us and calls upon us to do, is to care for and guard our own lives and first partake of the fruit? How very important this becomes in the light of the wonderful truth that the Garden of the Kingdom of God is planted eastward in the Eden of God's great and eternal domain and from its portals shall come that many-membered MAN, the LAST ADAM, the corporate SON OF GOD whose authority and Lordship is destined to be as boundless as the heavens, for God shall put all things under His feet!
GOD'S PURPOSE IN THIS AGE
God's purpose for this Church age is not the conversion of the whole world. This never was His plan. God's purpose for this age is to take out a people for His name (Acts 15:14). Let me make it perfectly clear, IF it were either God's plan or His desire to bring the whole world to repentance in this age, then the whole world WOULD COME TO REPENTANCE in this age! God is either God or He isn't. If He is God, He is in control of His universe and able to do all His will in heaven above and in earth beneath. If He isn't in control of His universe or can't fulfill all His desires, HE ISN'T GOD! I am thoroughly convinced that GOD IS GOD.
God's purpose, then, in this Church age is to call out a people for His name. Out from the billions of earth God is choosing an elect company to bear His name. The very word "Church" means "the called out." These are ones who are now being called out of sin, called out of the kingdom of darkness, called out of the world, called out of Babylon's religious systems, called out of every nation, called out of the Gentiles, called out of Israel until there is a multitude singing a new song, saying, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9-10). Passing among the nations, God calls out all those who were chosen IN CHRIST before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love: being predestinated unto PLACEMENT AS SONS, according to the good pleasure of HIS WILL (Eph. 1:3-5). The rest He leaves to fulfill His purposes in the ages to come.
How sad it is that multiplied millions of Christians have for centuries been taught the religious fable that their hope was to die and fly away to heaven where they would spend eternity waving palm branches, playing harps, dangling their feet in celestial waters, and skipping up and down Hallelujah Boulevard with nothing to do and all eternity to do it in! Oh how much precious truth and glorious and eternal reality is missed under the blinding shroud of the doctrines of men! This is not and never was God's purpose for saints, but the grand and glorious truth is that the Kingdom of God, the Sovereign Reign of Christ is being set up in the hearts and lives of His yielded and obedient Sons. As God commanded Adam the first to subdue and have dominion over all the earth, so He is now preparing and processing the many members of the body of the LAST ADAM for the government of the world when the time is ripe for it. Yes, beloved, the TIME IS NEAR TO BEING RIPE, the nations are now being shaped, and the "many brethren" are, even as I pen these words, being brought to His image and glory "for such a time as this."
THE PREPARATION OF THE SONS OF GOD
It would take hours and days and months and years without number to write of the infinite preparation taking place in the hearts of those saints who are to rule and reign with Christ. Since the reign of Christ is to be one of increasing peace, judgment, righteousness, equity and love, it is necessary that the LORD OF THE KINGDOM should take whom He has chosen to rule as His Sons and plant these in the Garden of His Dominion, that there they may be nurtured and dealt with, that their hearts may be prepared to reign with Him in the same spirit and wisdom and righteousness and knowledge that He Himself possesses. What a blessed preparation!
The first step in the preparation of the Sons of God is when we are lifted out of the vineyards of the world and planted in the Garden of God. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus as soon as we are saved; but through the control of sin, there are warped and weakened places left in our human nature and upon our members and faculties, which will hinder the plan of God being carried out in our lives. It is to these defects, weakness, and blights, we must die daily. The defects and blights, which have been left upon our human nature through being controlled by sin, and through tending the vineyards of the world, do not disappear as soon as we become new creatures in Christ Jesus. If this were so, we would be faultless at once, and there would be no necessity nor room for going on unto perfection. There would be no need of the cross, there could be no progress nor going from glory to glory. At the new birth, we become new creatures in Christ Jesus, and every faculty and member, every avenue of our beings, is delivered from the yoke of bondage and sin; and we begin to walk uprightly. Each faculty, member and power begins a Spiritward and Heavenward journey, traveling toward the place where they will all be brought under the control of the Spirit.
Many and varied are the ways and paths by which the Lord in faithfulness prepares the people He has chosen. A most enlightening aspect of this preparation is found tucked away among the priceless gems in the treasure house of truth in the Song of Solomon. "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes" (S. of S. 2:15). The King warns that it is not enough to dwell in the Garden and admire the beauty of the flowers and trees and smell their fragrance. It is not enough to listen to the singing of birds and look forward to the harvest. It is not enough to rejoice that we have been made meet to become partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, that we have been delivered out of the power darkness, and translated into the Kingdom of the Son of God's love. We must be up and doing; we must keep the vineyard of our own lives and souls! And we must take every fox, especially the young foxes that hide away and eat the vines, stripping them of the bark and destroying them.
The word "take," means "to seize and hold fast; to catch;" and the adjective, "little," has a most significant meaning, which contains a solemn warning and revelation concerning the cause of much of the fruitlessness in our lives. It not only means small because they are young and weak, but it means the very smallest and least important; those that we look upon as hardly worthy of notice because we consider that they are too insignificant to cause any harm or trouble. Let us notice that nothing is said of the large foxes. We are solemnly warned to hunt and take those little foxes which we have been overlooking, and which we have allowed to remain unmolested our vines.
At pruning time, if the dead twigs or branches, the rubbish that is cut from the vines, are left upon the ground, the old fox will hide away her young at the roots of the vine, and the little foxes will eat the tender shoots and the bark until the vine is girdled and spoiled; and vine or tree that is girdled, loses its sap and dies. The old foxes eat the grapes; and the young foxes spoil the vines; but they also become full-grown and multiply! Ah - it is not the great things in our lives that cause us to miss the mark the most. When we are faced with something formidable, we know that it must be overcome; and we draw upon the grace and power, which are in the Lord, to do this. It is the little things that we do not think amount to anything which are going to stop us from arriving at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. It may be along the lines of habits, words, attitudes, emotions, old natural ways, which have been with us for years; and which are so a part of ourselves that we are hardly conscious they are there. And we are to "take" these little foxes, seizing them and holding them fast, exercising dominion over them, until they are brought to death and eradicated out of our lives once for all!
The apostle admonishes, "But now ye also put off these; anger, wrath, malice, filthy communication out of your mouth" (Col. 3:8). PUT OFF - meaning lay aside, put away, seize hold of and put off - these instructions were not written to the ungodly, but those who are believers, following on to know the Lord in deeper measures. The more obvious sins were readily dealt with long ago, and no one teaches SONS that they must not murder, rob banks, visit massage parlors, bow down to idol, etc. By regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit we have been washed and made partakers of the divine and as the inner Christ-life takes hold of our beings there is no inclination to practice such gross sins. But now, what about the more subtle defilement - little resentments, inner agitation, ill-feelings, bitterness, criticisms, hurt because people will not receive your revelation and message, because they disagree with you, shun you, spread false rumors about you, disappoint you. Oh yes! God is making ready a people for a FULL MANIFESTATION OF HIMSELF, and the plowshares of the Spirit are probing deeper and deeper, and tearing up and exposing more stones and roots and clods than we ever thought heretofore.
One might soar high on the sweet wine of revelation and understand all the mysteries of how the saints of the most High shall take the Kingdom, how they shall conquer death, how they shall judge the world and angels in that blest age soon to come, how they shall rule and reign upon His throne and minister deliverance to the groaning creation, and this is all truth, for it is a pure vision which shall be fulfilled. But I cannot be too forceful to show you, beloved ones, that long before man is ever to be a partaker of such marvelous realities, he will have been thoroughly dealt with by the hand of God, the self-life being abased before the Lord, every rock of pride and every root of self-ascendancy purged out, so that our only desire will be to see the LORD glorified. Before we ever share His throne we will have learned quite well what the Spirit meant when He inspired the man of wisdom to pen these word: "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Prov. 16:32).
Learning to rule ones own spirit is not easy, in fact it requires that our spirit be joined to His Spirit, so that we are fortified and strengthened in the inner man, and thus able to gain control over all our impulses and emotions. The varied dispositions of human nature are not easily bridled or broken; the restlessness, the defensiveness, the quick reactions to pressures, frustration and anger in problems, fear, worry, hurt, and self-assertion all must be overcome, conquered, rendered inactive by the overwhelming reign of HIS LIFE within. Many like to govern others, issue orders, call the shots, manipulate, control what is going on about them, in the Church, etc., while they cannot bridle their own thoughts, moods and emotions, nor crucify the lusts and passions of their own flesh.
Oft times saints go to the Sunday meeting, sing the songs of Zion, raise their hands in praise and worship, weep, speak in tongues, prophesy, exhort and teach, maintaining an image of spirituality, and then fuss and argue and yell and fight with the wife and kids all the way home! One wonders how they expect to enter the Kingdom of God, and bring PEACE ON EARTH, when they cannot even speak peaceably to their husband or wife or children. The hour is at hand when all who would be Sons of God must recognize that it is RIGHT HERE WHERE WE ARE, in our present circumstances and life situations, under the pressures and problems of the job, the family, the boss, the nagging wife, the screaming brats, the obstinate husband, the broken-down car, the unpaid bills, etc. that the qualifications are being made for the spiritual positions of glory and honor to be revealed in due time. Oh yes, we would like to be recognized as overcomers, Sons of God; so we glory in our gifts, revelations, ministries, knowledge, abilities. But the real proof of our overcoming is not in how gifted we are, how deep and profound our revelations, how long or loud we pray, how many days we fast, how fluently we speak in tongues and prophesy; but how we live and walk and act and react among those with whom we live day after day. May the Spirit impress deeply upon our minds and hearts this one obvious truth: Overcoming begins at home! We may portray a certain image to others outside the home, but those who live with you get a truer and clearer picture. Just ask the husband, the wife, the children, the cat, the dog, the neighbors, the boss, if this one is such a saint.
Praise God! He is stripping away all the masks, all the false-faces, all the play-acting, and we are being brought face to face with reality - with ourselves. And what a revelation, and I dare say, not always a pleasant one, as we discover the Lord God walking through His Garden turning the searchlight of His Spirit on the rubbish lying at the root of our being, exposing all the little foxes hidden there. What remains unseen to those about us is not unseen to Him. It is that which springs from this inner realm that must be pure, so that our whole being, without and within BECOMES THE IMAGE OF CHRIST.
God warns us to catch every fox. We must not leave the old ones alive to eat the fruit, which the Holy Spirit is working in our lives; but above all, we must catch the smallest foxes lest they destroy the vines themselves. We are to lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us. The characteristics of the "fox," reveal that it is not easy to be faithful in this, as might appear. No animal is more deceitful and cute, more treacherous and sly, than the fox. And nothing in our lives is more deceiving and treacherous than those little habits, words, attitudes, moods, emotions, weaknesses, which appear as nothing in themselves; but it is they that are literally sapping away our spiritual life and strength. We cannot pity one of these little foxes, no matter how harmless or even attractive it may appear. It always happens, that as soon as we get any little fox out our vineyard, God lets us see the havoc it has wrought; and it no longer appears small and unimportant to us.
There is a further, and perhaps more startling, application of the "foxes" in our lives. It is not only in the fleshly emotions of anger, bitterness, resentment, etc.; nor only those who have allowed their lives to become encumbered with earthly toil and earthly play who are robbed of entering into the prize of HIS FULLNESS; but thousands of Christians today are so busy here and there with every manner of RELIGIOUS WORK that all spiritual growth has come to a standstill. Do you keep forever on the run for myriad Church activities and needs of the people until all your spare time is taken up going and doing as is so common among Christians in our day? If so, you are not growing in wisdom and knowledge and intimate relationship with Christ and, I dare say, while you are so busy WORKING FOR GOD, you will one day wake up to find that HE has moved on, and you are drowned in your activity. God does not want your work. He wants YOU! Beware of these foxes...
As long as we are deeply enwrapped and entangled in the old, yea, even those OLD THINGS GOD HAS DONE, we cannot ever behold the new, for our eyes and hearts are blinded by the cloak of the old. There are no little foxes anywhere more cute, deceitful or treacherous than these little foxes of THE OLD WAYS OF BABYLON which cling to the vines of our walk in God. How cunning they are! The little foxes of the religious systems prey upon the sentimental senses of our soul, with their music, programs, ordinances, activities and entertainment. But, blessed be God! by the eye of the Spirit I have come to behold the formations OF A COMPLETELY NEW MOVE OF GOD to be birthed, ere long, in the earth. I do not hesitate to declare it. I do not condemn any of the present orders of meetings and worship - hymns and choruses, prophecies and prayers, exhortations and teachings, sermons and altar calls, Sunday Schools and Bible Schools, elders and fellowships, for we know that God uses them all; yet, the Spirit is speaking, stirring, dealing, quickening, convincing our hearts that we must be alert to the little foxes of the OLD ORDER THAT IS PASSING AWAY and must not allow the ways, methods, traditions and practices of the old to so cling to us that they choke and strip us even as our hearts cry out for the NEW and the tender grapes of HIS LIFE appear on our vines.
The Spirit bids me share even this further admonition. Indifference concerning a close walk with God; compromising with those who are not walking in the Spirit, and who are not moving forward in God, will lay waste a vineyard that is in blossom; destroying not only the fruit, but the vines themselves. Wasted time and foolish talking, lack of diligence, neglect of prayer and of the Word, will stir the bark from the vines, so that the sap, which is the life, will run out; and the vines will die. My heart is made heavy when I see Christians caught up in the pressures and spirit of the age, constantly running to and fro, from activity to activity, from job to job, so busy that they have no time to pray, too filled with earth's trash to enjoy conversation about eternal things, too pressed to read the Scriptures, too involved with petty things to sit at Jesus's feet and wait in His holy presence TO LEARN OF HIM as did Mary of Bethany. So many are like the good Martha and are always busy serving, but ever missing that vital union with Him which is of such transcendent importance and without which true Sonship cannot be attained.
He is ours to love and worship, to adore and learn to know and obey; He is ours that we may let fill our lives and hearts, that we may draw upon His strength at every step. His beauty and attributes are for us that we may put them on. He is all we need for He is our precious Storehouse, and in Him are hidden all God's riches in glory. Do we need wisdom and knowledge? All the riches of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him, and He is ours! He is our righteousness and sanctification and redemption, He is our refuge and strong tower, He is ours!
Time is rapidly fading away, the things of the earth and of the natural are sinking out of sight and becoming shadows. Darkness is spreading over the earth and gross darkness over the peoples, and even the leaders of our own nation are groping and stumbling about in the hideous darkness of this night that is creeping down on America and the world. At the same time there is a glory falling upon our union with the Lord, which is shining more brightly as the days go by. It seems that there are only a few more mileposts to pass, only a little more of the earthly to be taken off, only a little more time in which to perfect our relation to Him and our separation from all else, and then we shall behold His glory bursting forth from a PREPARED PEOPLE; Eden's gates opened wide, not, this time, blessed be God! to drive out the wretched man who failed to tend his garden; but gates opened that all creation might come and behold HIS GLORY and partake of the fruit of a bountifully overflowing harvest of HIS LIFE.
Truly, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand," for the saints of God. Already we begin to see the faint signs of the dawn and many are arising to drink in the intoxicating freshness of the morning! As the shadows and darkness of the sin and iniquity of this world system increase about us, we are aware of the arising of His glory upon a many-membered-son company. Our souls cry out: "until the day break and the shadows flee away" (S. of S. 2:17). It is His inworking into our hearts that has given us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; and which is preparing us for the full day. It is the outshining of His glorious presence at the unveiling of the Sons of God that shall make every shadow flee away, and shall usher in a NEW DAY over the face of the whole earth!
Let us tend to the garden of our own lives with all diligence...
J. PRESTON EBY
J. PRESTON EBY
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