ECHOES FROM EDEN
A SABBATH IN EDEN
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and HE RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY from all His work which He had made. And God BLESSED THE SEVENTH DAY, AND SANCTIFIED IT: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made" (Gen. 2:1-3).
The Bible is the history of man. In its sixty-six books it describes in chronicle, biography, allegory, prophecy, epistle, parable, and poem, man's generation, degeneration and regeneration. It has been preserved and prized beyond all other books because it teaches man from whence he came, the meaning of life, and how to become that which God has purposed for him before the foundation of the world - to be the Sons of God in the image of God. As man is a three-fold being, spirit, soul, and body, so the Bible is a trinity in unity. It is body as a book of history; soul as a teacher of morals and order; and spirit as a teacher of the mysteries of being, revealing to man the awe-inspiring wonder of the spiritual life in the realm of the Kingdom of Heaven, joined in union with God AS ONE SPIRIT.
The Spirit of God has many ways of teaching His people, but there are few methods more powerful than the method of types and shadows. The sublime importance of a truth can be clearly seen by the gradual unfolding of its message through the progression of ages and millenniums of time. Thus it is, for example, that the story of the blood runs as a scarlet thread from the opening scenes of creation when a lamb was sacrificed in Eden (Gen. 3:21; Rev. 13:8), to that hallowed drama at the closing of the ages when with the indescribable harmony of every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, the grand anthem shall fill the universe, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and UNTO THE LAMB for ever and ever" (Rev. 5:13). As one has stated, "The shedding of the precious blood of Christ at Calvary was not the result of passing thought. It was the product of eternal consideration." Consider with awe how this blessed theme was gradually unfolded in the worship of righteous Abel, in God's dealings with Noah when he was commanded to "eat no blood," in the account of Abraham and Isaac at Moriah, in the slaying of the passover lamb in Egypt, in the national dietary laws given to Israel, in the ceremonial laws of purification and atonement, and in the rivers of blood flowing from the sacrificial deaths of countless millions of lambs and rams and bullocks until the truth of the redeeming and life-giving blood of God's own eternal Lamb rises like a glorious crescendo trumpeting the awesome wonder of the Lamb Himself in all His transcendent glory sacrificed to deliver and quicken us all (Jn. 1:29).
So also the story of God's Sabbath develops through the pages of God's Word from the first simple statement, "And He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made" (Gen. 2:2), to the New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven and the wondrous proclamation to all men, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4). "There remaineth therefore a REST to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest" (Heb. 4:9-11).
Paul, speaking of the entire history of Israel, tells us that all things that happened to them happened by way of a figure, as an example to us, in whose days those past ages have reached their climax and consummation IN CHRIST. We could go through the Old Testament and cite many examples of God's rest, and show how they typify the blessed Sabbath of God to which the Spirit now points us, the ETERNAL REALM OF GOD'S OWN REST AND GLORY, sanctified and set apart for man, that he might have entrance into it, to know God there, to experience God there, and forever abide in union with God in the high and holy and blessed realm of HIS LIFE, REST, JOY. PEACE, RIGHTEOUSNESS AND VICTORY. We could of Noah, whose name signifies "repose," and show how the dove which he sent forth from the ark found no "resting place" for the sole of her foot; and how God smelled an "odour of rest" when Noah offered up the sacrifice on the top of the mountain. We could deal at length with the ark of the covenant, and show how it typified the presence and glory of God, and how God would direct it on ahead of the children of Israel in their wilderness journeyings, searching out a "resting-place" for the people of God. We could dwell for several articles on how David prepared a place for the ark when his kingdom was established, and pitched for it a tent - and how they invited the glory of God to come into their midst. Behold with wonder how later the magnificent temple of Solomon succeeded the tabernacle of David, and how Solomon prayed on that occasion, "Now therefore arise, O Lord God, into THY RESTING PLACE, Thou, and the ark of Thy strength: let Thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let Thy saints rejoice in goodness" (II Chron. 6:41).
We have, in previous articles, considered the weekly day of rest given to Israel. In the wilderness of Sin, before the Israelites reached Mount Sinai, God gave them manna, double supply being given on the sixth day of the week, in order that the seventh day might be kept as a day of rest from labor. Moses said to the people, "This is that which the Lord has said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake today...and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning" (Ex. 16:23). Shortly afterward the Ten Commandments were given at Sinai. The fourth commandment enjoined Israel to "remember the Sabbath day," even the stranger within the gates, was to do absolutely no work of any kind to keep the day as a holy day unto the Lord. But, further, as each seventh year, the commandment was, to sow and reap for six years, and to let the land rest on the seventh. Furthermore, Sabbath days were observed in connection with all the Feasts of the Lord. I suppose I could fill whole volumes with the unfolding of these precious types and shadows, but let us now consider one briefly, the Feast of Tabernacles.
THE FEAST OF REST
The seventh month was sacred month in Israel and that month opened with the Feast of Trumpets, and contained the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles - the last named being the most joyful of Hebrew festivals. The Feast of Tabernacles is the FEAST OF REST, of which all other Feasts were but the earnest and foretaste. To begin with it was in the seventh month, even as God "rested the seventh day from all His work." The first day of the Feast was the fifteenth, and it was observed for seven days. The last day of the Feast was therefore the twenty-first day of the seventh month, twenty-one being a triple of seven - Rest in the absolute sense, God's Rest which "remaineth" for the people of God. Then the next day was likewise a Sabbath (the eighth day of the Feast); and though it was connected in some measure with the Feast, it was not one of the seven days of their festivities. The eighth day would speak, undoubtedly, of the completion of God's purposes in His people, and the beginning of a new day.
Now consider how, as we begin to read the ordinances of the Feasts of Israel in Leviticus chapter twenty-three, the Holy Spirit first directs our attention to the weekly Sabbath, "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest...ye shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings" (Lev. 23:3). Then immediately follows the order of the Feasts, and the seven-fold events involved in the feasts:
1. The Passover
2. The Unleavened Bread
3. The Sheaf of Firstfruits
4. The Feast of Pentecost
5. The Blowing of the Trumpets
6. The Day of Atonement
7. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
From these statements of holy Scripture we must confidently affirm that just as the weekly Sabbath was the end of Israel's toil and labor, typifying that blessed realm where God's people cease from all their own works, and rest in the work of Christ, so the Feast of Tabernacles is the end of the saint's long season of strife, turmoil, struggle, and battle: the Feast of all Feasts, the Sabbath of all Sabbaths. It is the fullness of Christ, it is perfection, it is the Kingdom of God, where man labors no more, but forever enjoys the fruits of an abounding harvest in the "land" which he is.
The Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated at the time of harvest and ingathering of the crops. Speaking of this, God promised His people: "I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil" (Deut. 11:14). And this is that which Joel prophesied about: "Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain, in the first month. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil" (Joel 2:23-24). This great harvest is promised in the FIRST MONTH. We must understand that Israel observed two different calendars: they had the Sacred Year which begin with the Passover in April, commemorating their departure from the land of Egypt, and their beginning as redeemed nation. But they also had what has been termed a Civil Year, or an Agricultural Year, which began in October. This, then, was the first month of the Civil Year, but at the same time it was the seventh month of the Sacred Year - the month of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Thus, the Feast of Tabernacles speaks to us of two things: abundance of fruit; and rest from our labors when the harvest is complete. All the Feasts are types of Christ. Each one, as a type, is complete and perfect in itself; but the last one, the Feast of Tabernacles, is the all-inclusive and great type. The lamb of the Feast of Passover as a type of Christ is indeed complete and perfect; yet it is a type of Christ in a much limited measure. As far as the Lord Himself is concerned, He is not limited at all, but as far as our experience of Him is concerned, there is such a limitation. When we come to the Lord and receive Him as our Redemption, the Christ we receive is whole, complete, and perfect; but as far our experience of Him is concerned, we experience Him in only a small measure, just as the little lamb of salvation. From the time we experienced Christ as the lamb, we have always been progressing and advancing; we have continually made progress in our experience of Christ and received of Him more and more. This does not mean that Christ has become greater and greater. No, Christ is the same, He changes not! But as we grow in our appropriation of Him He becomes greater and greater TO US AND IN US. Day by day in our experience Christ is becoming greater and greater! At the stage of our experience in which we arrive at the last Feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, the UNLIMITED CHRIST, Christ is unlimited to us, He becomes ALL IN ALL. The other Feasts are limited, we know Christ by measure in them, but in the Feast of the SEVENTH MONTH we know Him in all fullness and rest with Him in all His glorious and eternal abundance forever more!
All the other Feasts can be measured. There is an extent, a limit, to the features and realities of Christ they prefigure. Not so with the Feast of Tabernacles, here the harvest is complete, all the fruits of the land are gathered in, the people now rest and rejoice and eat to the full of the fruits of the land. Here Christ is known as the inexhaustible and immeasurable, and we rest from all our labors, and enjoy HIM as the fruit. In his book, THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES, George Warnock has so beautifully written of the fruit of this Feast: "'And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.' Or, literally, 'New wine and oil,' beautiful symbols of the fruit of the Spirit in the saints. Said Paul, 'Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit' (Eph. 5:18). And the oil, as we know, is a symbol of the anointing. 'The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you...' (I Jn. 2:27). This great ingathering is the harvest for which the Husbandman has been waiting ever since the foundation of the Church. Gifts of the Spirit are really no evidence of spiritual attainment; God bestoweth His gifts freely by His grace upon whomsoever He will. But with FRUIT it is entirely different. Fruit must grow; and God has never intended that the body of Christ should ever bring forth fruit except through continual Divine GROWTH in the Spirit of God. God will not come to us looking for gifts, but for fruits of the Spirit. He gave us His gifts freely by His grace, and all we had to do was to receive them and use them. What God wants now is FRUIT, because that is something He can RECEIVE from you. That is something which must GROW upon you by your patient and continual walk with God and your appropriation of His Spirit. Until now the Husbandman has come into His Garden, pruning, cultivating, watering - without expecting anything in return. But now the harvest time is approaching, and soon He shall visit His Garden for one purpose and for one purpose only: seeking for fruit, and trusting that His tender care over the vine has produced some genuine FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. Let us never forget that the FRUITS of the Spirit, and not the GIFTS of the Spirit, constitute the real test of spiritual life; it is the FRUIT that is the embodiment and expression of Christ-likeness within the heart and soul. That is why Paul exhorted, 'Follow after love, and desire spiritual gifts...' (I Cor. 14:1). Gifts are absolutely necessary, for they are the means to the eand; but Love is the end, the consummation, the fruit for which God is waiting. Love is the Ultimate, because 'God is Love,' and it is his purpose to conform the saints even unto 'the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren' (Rom. 8:29). Love is the End: but it is an End which knows no beginning or ending, for it is God Himself; and when we become thoroughly united with Him we are in a realm which is eternally progressive."
Oh, what a grand and glorious realm lies before us in the Feast of Ingathering, the Feast of Rest! The Day of the Fruit of the Spirit! The Day of Perfection! The full and complete experiencing of HIMSELF! The Feast of Feasts, the Sabbath of Sabbaths! I have already pointed out that the literal Feasts which God gave to Israel of old were types of the great SPIRITUAL FEASTS that God is, in this age, bringing His people into, by which we EXPERIENCE CHRIST. Of the seven Feasts of Israel, the first was Passover. We are called to the SPIRITUAL FEAST of Passover in experiencing Christ as salvation. "For even Christ OUR PASSOVER is sacrificed for us" (I Cor. 5:7). Later we are called to the great SPIRITUAL FEAST of PENTECOST in the experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come...they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-4). In Israel the Feast of Pentecost was "the feast of harvest, the FIRSTFRUITS of thy labors" (Deut. 16:9-12; Ex. 23:16; 34:22). Under New Testament economy this is the FIRSTFRUITS OF THE SPIRIT. "And not only they, but ourselves also which have the FIRSTFRUITS of the SPIRIT, even we ourselves...wait...for the redemption of the body" (Rom. 8:23).
The last great Feast of the Israelite year, as we have shown, was TABERNACLES...and startling as it might seem, THIS is the FEAST that REMAINS to be FULFILLED! "There REMAINETH therefore a REST unto the people of God." Tabernacles is called "the Feast of Ingathering, which is in the END OF THE YEAR." Pentecost is only the firstfruits of the Spirit, but Tabernacles is the full harvest - FULLNESS! And this fullness comes in the END of the year, at the completion of our walk with God, and I believe that we have not witnessed such fullness in any save our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, neither shall we until the very close of this present age. The Feast of Tabernacles could not be celebrated until Israel had left the wilderness behind, and was dwelling in Canaan. Even so, Christ is bringing a great company of apprehended ones, in this the END of the age, out of their wilderness wanderings of immaturity, blundering, error, carnality, struggle, and unbelief and on into their Canaan land - the measure of the stature of the FULLNESS OF CHRIST. Ah, yes, God shall surely, in this hour, give unto the elect Sons of God the FULLNESS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD of which we, up until this time, have only received the "earnest" or "firstfruits."
I do not hesitate to say that for the most part we are still partaking of the Feast of Pentecost. How bountifully the table has been spread with His presence and divers gifts of the Holy Spirit! But the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast at the END of this year, is the Feast of Fullness. And BLESSED are they who are called to this great Feast, that which supersedes Pentecost, that which is the BALANCE OF THE MEAL of which Passover and Pentecost were merely first courses. And the balance must therefore come, the remainder of the meal which will give strength to the laborers to go forth and accomplish great things for the Master. And this Tabernacles Feast, being the last, will bring perfection! It will bring the consummation of our REST, spirit, soul, and body. As we leave this Feast in great strength, those who will be in control of this planet from that time forth will be abiding in the fullness of Resurrection Life and will be forever free from the curse, spirit, soul, and body. It shall mean a new day of glory for the whole earth as God turns from dealing with His people, to dealing through His people WITH THE NATIONS. Oh! blessed rest!
Tabernacles is the Feast of Rest. We have experienced God's rest in measure as we have received the Master's gracious invitation, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me...and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Mat. 11:28-29). All who come to Him find rest, all who seek Him are refreshed. Nowhere else can a soul find rest excepting by coming to the Lord, looking to Him, and learning of Him. God is even now drawing a people BEYOND PENTECOST - to the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Rest, to BECOME HIS REST for the dark and treacherous days which lie ahead. All the storms and hurricanes that come up against us, will not be able to dismay nor cast us down when we really learn to dwell in the secret place of the Most High and to abide under the shadow of the Almighty. In turmoil, when things have not gone as we hoped, when all around is crumbling, and the world passeth away and the lust thereof, how unspeakably precious it is to settle ourselves in the loving arms of God our Rest. Such sweet assurance and holy stillness floods over our souls as the voice of our Beloved speaks to the billows, He quiets us upon His own bosom; and God's peace takes the place of the tension that has held us. It is then we receive grace to say of every persecution or cause of unrest and distress, "This does not concern me; it is no affair of mine; HE WILL TAKE CARE OF IT." And as we look away from the perplexities of the flesh, and behold Him who is our rest, the rest and peace of God that passeth all understanding, enters our souls. This is the rest where we cease from our own labors and REST IN THE WORKING OF CHRIST. Mighty Christ! Triumphant Christ! How wonderful you are: ever the same. Saviour of men, seeking the lost and weary with undiminished compassion; Judge of mankind, arraigning every transgressor before your bar, pulling down that you may build, destroying that you may plant, smiting that you may heal; King of the ages, Holder of the keys of hell and of death, Vanquisher of death, Spoiler of all enemies, Worker of all things new, Head of the New Creation, unsatisfied, unconquered, and unwearied till, with its subjects penitent, subdued, coming to You, adoring, satisfied in You, You deliver up the Kingdom to the Father that God may be all in all!
FROM THE WILDERNESS TO CANAAN
"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4:1,9,11).
What is this rest? We have to look at a type in the Old Testament to discover its meaning. After the children of Israel were delivered and saved from the land of Egypt, they were brought into the wilderness with the intention that they should go on into the land of Canaan. The land of Canaan was their land of rest, a type of CHRIST. Christ Himself is the good land of Canaan, He is our rest. If we are going to enter into the rest, we must enter into Christ. The Israelites, who were delivered out of Egypt (typifying the body, or flesh realm), instead of going on into Canaan, wandered for many years in the wilderness. What does this typify? It means that many saints, after being saved are simply wandering about in the wilderness of the SOUL...in the barrenness and unfruitfulness of their OWN carnal thoughts, desires, emotions, affections and wills. The reason the book of Hebrews was written was that many believers were saved, but rather than entering in to possess for their entire being the divine reality God had placed in their quickened spirit, they were still wandering in the restlessness, variableness, confusion, and defeat of their soul life. They would not press on from the wilderness of the soul into the good land - that is, into CHRIST WHO DWELT IN THEIR SPIRIT, where there is righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost.
Even though we may have been saved for many years, we must now ask the Spirit of God to lift the veil that is upon our minds and reveal the truth of whether we are presently living in the realm of the body (Egypt: sensuality, sin), the soul (the Wilderness: carnality, self-will, intellect, emotions etc.), or in the spirit (Canaan: divine life, light, love, victory, peace, joy, righteousness, power, etc.). With reverent heart ask the Lord to search yourself in order to be clear where you are. Frankly, many of the Lord's people are wandering day after day in the wilderness of the soul! In the morning they may have joyful countenances, but err long the pressures of the day take their toll and they become irritable, frustrated, upset, anxious, and dismayed. Yesterday, it seems they were in the heavens, but today they are making their bed in hell, discouraged, depressed, and defeated. Yesterday they were full of faith and courage, ready to believe God for exploits, but today they are disheartened with their walk in God and fearful about the future. In the meeting on Sunday they had an overflow of joy and victory, but today in the battle, under the pressure of the problems, their emotions are erupting, their minds are weary, and nerves frayed. They are continually wandering about in the soul, the wilderness, without rest, circling in the same rut day after day, getting nowhere. They may have been walking with God for forty years, but are still going around in the same vicious, just as the children of Israel, who wandered for forty years with no improvement and no progress. Why? Because they are living in the soul. The soul is barren and desolate, there is no life in it. When we are in the soul we are in the wilderness.
The Word of God must pierce us so that we may know how to press from the soul into the good land of OUR SPIRIT, WHERE CHRIST DWELLS. We must know how to bring our body and soul into the Holy Place of the Spirit so that the whole man may find blessed rest. Only God can teach us this, and He does so as we sit at HIS FEET in adoring submission. Flee, my brother, my sister, from the desolate wilderness of your soul as you would from a bear in the forest and you shall find blessed refuge in the promised land of the spirit, for there is a realm there WITHIN YOU, as close to you as the very air you breathe, as near as the heart that beats faithfully within your breast, as continuously available as the blood coursing through your veins, a sacred place within your spirit where the things of earth do not rule, depress, upset, frustrate, agitate, anger, control, defeat nor AFFECT IN ANY WAY, for CHRIST DWELLS THERE AS LIFE! Dead reader, ponder if you will, this marvelous truth: CHRIST is not depressed, driven, anxious, upset, confused, fearful, frustrated, weary, defeated, nor weak, and CHRIST IN YOU IS NOT EITHER! And YOU IN CHRIST are not either!
All things that happened to Israel happened to them for ensamples to us upon whom the end of the age is come (I Cor. 10:11). Every man who is coming into the Sonship God has ordained must recognize that with Israel, after its deliverance from Egypt, there were two stages. The one, the life in the wilderness, with its wanderings and its wants, its unbelief and its murmurings, its provocation of God and its exclusion from the promised rest. The other, the land of promise, with rest instead of the desert wanderings, with abundance instead of want, and the victory over every enemy instead of defeat. These are symbols of the two stages in the believer's life. The one in which we only know the Lord as Saviour from Egypt, in the pardon and forgiveness of our sins, and the other, where He is known and experienced as the INDWELLING LORD, who, in the power of an endless life, enters in and saves completely, writes God's laws in the heart, transforms into the image of the Son, and leads us to find our eternal abiding place in THE FULLNESS OF GOD.
Some think that the land of Canaan is a type of heaven. This cannot be, because the great mark of the Canaan life was that the land had to be conquered and that God gave such glorious victory over enemies - hear it! - VICTORY OVER ENEMIES, not a "rescue" from the enemies. The rest of Canaan was for victory and through victory. And so it is in the life of the Sons of God, as we learn to trust God for victory over sin, victory over the flesh, victory over soulish emotions, victory over own wills, victory over sickness, and finally victory even over death, we possess, victory upon victory, the good land of Canaan! This is the territory of GOD'S REST which we enter, not through death, but through faith, the faith that lives in the promise and the power of God.
There is a people rising from the barren dust of the wilderness of the soul to sit together with Christ in the heavenly places of the Spirit. God dwells in your spirit, dear one, and God in your spirit is both infinite and eternal, and therefore in finding all that is available in God one must be prepared to go ever onward and upward into the vast expanses of the Spirit of God. If God is infinite, there is NO LIMIT to the experience which we might have in union with Him by the Spirit. And if God is eternal, there is NO END to the measure of grace and glory into which He would lead us by the Spirit. When our astronauts began their explorations to the moon, it was not sufficient that they should entered a rocket and pushed through the atmosphere for an hour or two. True, they were in space the hour they started. But space is vast - and they must go on, and on, and on, and on...even to the surface of the moon. If God permits, man will go on to Mars, and eventually from solar system, and from galaxy to galaxy, through the unbounded heavens!
Now, God has made us partakers of His Holy Spirit, and that simply means He has called us to explore the inexhaustible sphere of the DEEP THINGS OF GOD and the INFINITE SUMMITS of His glory, and power, and holiness. Our spirit has been quickened by His Spirit for this very purpose: "that we might know the things that are freely given us of God" (I Cor. 2:12). The natural mind cannot discover these things, hence the Spirit of God is sent into our spirit to reveal them unto us and to search out and explore "ALL THINGS, yea, the deep things in God" (I Cor. 2:10).
CONSIDER THE LILIES
How gracious and wise is our God in all His ways! The Bible is literally packed full of mysteries, parables, types, shadows, and allegories, which are only unfolded by the Holy Spirit to those who FOLLOW ON to KNOW THE LORD. Jesus once spake a parable which holds a revelation of unspeakable glory for all who would be conformed to the image of God's Son. The parable occupies just two short verses, but its message is a thing of tremendous importance to those who yearn to enter fully into His rest. Jesus said, "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Mat. 6:28-29).
Consider the lilies! What gives exceptional meaning to this object lesson from the lips of Jesus is, that He was not only the author of the parable, but the creator of the lilies. It is like an inventor describing his own machine. He made the lilies and He made man and He makes the New Creation - all on the same broad principle. All together, lilies, men, and Sons of God, He gives life and causes to grow and develop into beauty and maturity. So Jesus points to the miracle of nature in the plant kingdom to teach us how to live a free and natural life in Christ, a life which God will unfold for us, without our anxiety or effort, just as HE UNFOLDS THE FLOWER.
These wonderful words of Jesus were not uttered to cause us to aspire to become horticulturists; we are not to consider the lilies simply to admire their beauty, to wonder at the delicate strength of stem and petal. The thing we are to consider is HOW THEY GROW - how without anxiety or care the flower woke into loveliness, how without weaving these leaves were woven, how without artist's paint or brush the flower was tinted with exotic hues, how without toiling these complex tissues spun themselves, and how WITHOUT ANY EFFORT OR STRUGGLE they slowly came created from the loom of God in their "greater than Solomon" glory. "So," the parable declares, "you care worn, struggling, anxious children of God must grow! You, too, need take no thought for your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink or what you shall put on. For if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Every man and woman who has been begotten of God should meditate deeply upon the thoughts I now share, until the Spirit of wisdom and revelation from God unveils to mind and heart how it is that our Lord spake not merely of having faith for natural things, food and clothing for the body, but His words were a prophetic prefiguring of a graver anxiety, not this time for the body, but for the inner realms of soul and spirit. For the physical life we can consider the lilies - but what about our spiritual life, the Christ-life within? How are we to grow in grace and unfoldment of THE LIFE OF CHRIST? How shall we add the necessary cubits to our spiritual stature until we come to a Perfect Man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ? How shall we put off the old man and put on the new? How shall we subjugate the carnal mind and put of the mind of Christ? How shall we crucify our own will to live only and always in the will of the Father? How shall we grow up into Him who is the Head in all things, being conformed into the image of God? Because we have not understood how such awesome realities as these can be accomplished, we have been beset by anxiety and our inner life has been filled with conflict, toil, self-effort, multiplied works, agony and an awful sense of failure. Our efforts after perfection seem continually doomed, and instead of rising into the beauty of holiness our life is a daily heartbreak and humiliation.
Now the reason for this is very clear! We have not known the parable of the lilies. Violent "efforts" to "grow" or "become God-like" are altogether understandable, but wholly wrong in principle. There is but A SINGLE PRINCIPLE OF GROWTH for the natural and spiritual, for animal and plant, and for man, body, soul, and spirit. All growth is a natural, spontaneous thing. And the principle of growing up into the likeness of Christ is once more this: "Consider the lilies, how they grow."
The lilies grow, Jesus says, of themselves; they toil not, neither do they spin. They grow automatically, spontaneously, without trying, without fretting, without thinking, without work. Applied on any level, to plant, to animal, to the body, or to the quickened spirit of the child of God the law is the same. A boy grows, for example, without trying. One or two simple conditions are met, and the growth goes on. He must eat, drink water, and exercise. But a boy does not eat to grow, he eats because he is hungry. It is natural. He thinks as little about the eating as about the growing, he fulfills the conditions by nature, and result follows by nature. Both processes go steadily on year after year without thought, worry, or effort. One would never think of telling a boy to grow! To try to make a thing grow is as absurd as to help the stars to shine or the wind to blow.
Everything grows without trying, and, on the other hand, nothing can grow by trying. No man by taking though has ever added a cubit to his stature, nor has any Son or Daughter of God ever approached nearer to the stature of the Lord Jesus Christ by working at it! Jesus did not become the Son of God by working, and any who thinks to reach this blessed height by anxious effort is really departing from it. Christ's life unfolded itself FROM A DIVINE GERM, planted centrally in His nature, which grew as naturally as a flower from a bud. Only life can do that! For a seed to germinate, to sprout, to grow, change, develop into a plant of beauty and grace requires the power of an INDWELLING LIFE. Therefore the man who has within himself this great formative agent, THE LIFE OF CHRIST, contains within himself the power to become a Son of God. The man who does not have this Life cannot be transformed, but the man who has it must be. The life must develop out according to its type; and being a germ of the Christ-life, it must unfold into A CHRIST. The end of the growth process is perfection, the mind of Christ, the character of Christ, the life of Christ.
The regenerated spirit is a new creature. The re-born man is a new man in Christ Jesus. He adds the cubits to his stature just as the old man does, naturally. He is rooted and built up in Christ; he abides in the vine, and so abiding, not toiling or spinning, without effort, brings forth fruit. Sons of God in short, like poets, ARE BORN not made; and the fruits of their character are not manufactured things but living things, things which have grown from the secret germ, the fruits of the living Spirit. They are not the produce of the climate of this evil world, but exotics from the CELESTIAL REALM. When a man learns this parable of the lilies, and how they grow, he will immediately ENTER INTO REST and cease from all his own works as God did from His.
Do not worry, dear ones, as to whether you seem to be making progress or not. There is nothing in the world that grows so fast that you can see it grow. Let God be judge of how much or how little you have grown. Your duty and mine is to abide in Him, RESTING IN FAITH, pressing patiently toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
A lily grows mysteriously, pushing up its solid weight of stem and leaf in the teeth of gravity and through obstacles of the soil. Oft times we have sung the words of the little chorus:
Oh, I marvel at the wisdom of my God,
Yes, I marvel at the wisdom of my God,
When I see the little lily pushing up the heavy clod,
Then I marvel at the wisdom of my God!
Rising spontaneously from the dust of earth, shaped into beauty by secret and invisible fingers, the flower develops we know not how. But we do not doubt it. Every day the thing is done; it is nature, it is GOD. We are spiritual enough at least to understand that. But when the spirit rises slowly above the world, pushing up its pure virtues in the teeth of sin, bursting forth into manifestation through the hard clods of the flesh, shaping itself mysteriously into the image of Christ, we often imagine that our own efforts and zeal have contributed substantially to the process! A strong will, we say, determination, hours of prayer, days account for our growth. Spiritual stature is merely the product of anxious work, self-command, self-control, self-denial. We confess that the growth of the little lily IS A MIRACLE, spontaneous, instinctive, uncompelled, but the believer must fret and toil and spin. Not so! Contemplating the wonder of the lily, a wise man does not say, "There has been a great EFFORT here," but "there has been a great POWER here!" It is the power of the indwelling life.
We have now seen that the process of spiritual unfoldment is secured and maintained by a spontaneous and mysterious inward principle. It is a spontaneous principle even in its origin, for it bloweth where it listeth, it is not of him that willeth, but of God who showeth mercy; mysterious in its operation, curiously wrought in the hidden parts of our earth. The whole process therefore transcends us; we do not work, we are taken in hand - "It is GOD WHICH WORKETH IN US, both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). We do not plan - we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which GOD HATH BEFORE ORDAINED that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). If GOD is adding to our spiritual stature, unfolding the new nature within us, it is a mistake to keep twitching at the petals with our course fingers. "It is GOD which giveth the increase" (I Cor. 3:6-7). We will never know how little we have learned of the ways of the Lord till we discover how much we are all bent on helping God out with His omnipotence. IF God is spending work upon you, my brother, then learn to be still and know that it is God. And if you want to work, you will find it there - in being still! "Let us therefore LABOR to enter into REST."
Yes, there is a realm of "doing," where, like Christ, we must be about our Father's business, working the works of Him that sent us. But these are works which are the RESULT OF HIS LIFE IN US, not a means to His life. Christ is the CAUSE, works are the effect. It is when men try to make works the cause of their becoming spiritual that they have missed the mark. There is no work on earth that can make you spiritual. But His life in us will surely manifest itself in righteousness, the outward expression of the indwelling Christ, so that "If ye know that HE is righteous, ye know that every one that DOETH righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous" (I Jn. 2:29; 3:7).
For its growth the plant needs heat, light, air, and moisture. Does this mean that a man must go in search of these, or their spiritual equivalents, and this is his work? By no means! Does the plant go in search of the garden, of air, or sun, or rain? Nay, it is carried and planted in the garden by a power greater than itself, and all the other conditions come to the plant. It no more manufactures the heat, light, air, moisture, than it manufactures it own stem. It simply stands still WITH ITS LEAVES SPREAD OUT IN UNCONSCIOUS PRAYER, and nature lavishes upon it all these bountiful blessings, bathing it in sunshine, surrounding it with life-giving air, reviving it graciously with rain from heaven. Can we, my brethren, manufacture the conditions for our growth? When we see the haste and impatience of Christians as they drown their lives in religious activity, meetings twice on Sunday, door-to-door witnessing on Monday night, Bible study on Tuesday night, men's prayer meeting on Wednesday night, young people's meeting on Thursday night, choir practice on Friday night, and the Church picnic on Saturday, with committee meetings stuck all in between, we would surely think that God had fallen asleep and left it to us to create our own environment and conditions for growth. We praise God for those times He gives us of gathering together with the saints, in corporate praise and prayer and sharing, but if you would be a Son of God and know the power of that life which raised Jesus from the dead, then you must come to have great confidence in CHRIST IN YOU and know that HE continually showers upon you all that is needed to bring you to perfection.
The Lord is a Sun. He is as the Dew to Israel. He comes to us as the Rain, the former and the latter Rain upon the earth. God is Light and in Him is no darkness. It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. A man has no more to manufacture these than he has to manufacture his own spirit. It is not only in the "meeting" that God showers upon us the elements for our growth, daily we stand surrounded by them, bathed in them, beset behind and before by them! We live and move and have our being in them. How then shall we go in search of them? The way some Christians skip around from Church to Church, meeting to meeting, revival to revival, seminar to seminar, seeking, searching, looking for life, but never having their hunger satisfied nor their thirst quenched should be abundant proof that God has not left it to us to seek out or manufacture the proper conditions for our development.
Become still before the God of all grace and glory and you will soon learn that you do not need to go out in search of the conditions and elements of your growth in Christ; they, rather, WILL COME IN SEARCH OF YOU! You will feel how they press themselves upon you, how unweariedly they appeal to you, how faithfully they work for you. He is not far from us. He is as near as the life within your believing heart, for He is your life and of Him are ALL THINGS. You need manufacture nothing, earn nothing; you need be anxious for nothing; your one duty is to ABIDE IN HIS PRESENCE, abide in the conditions which are of Him and in Him and from Him, and then be still therein and KNOW THAT HE IS GOD. The conflict begins and prevails in all its life-long agony the moment a man forgets this. He struggles in himself to grow instead of struggling to get back into position. He struggles to WORK, rather than laboring to enter REST. He makes Sonship into a gymnasium when God meant it to be a beautiful Garden!
The life of Sonship is finally simplified to this - the child of God has but to abide in Christ, to be in position, that is all. Much work may be done on board a sailboat crossing the ocean. Yet none of it is spent on making the boat go. The sailor harnessess his vessel to the wind, he puts his sail and rudder in position, and lo, the miracle is wrought. God gives the wind and the water. Man but abides in the path of the wind, fixes his sail, and is driven along effortlessly to yonder fair harbor. As God's apprehended ones hold themselves in position BEFORE GOD'S SPIRIT, all the energies of Omnipotence course within their souls. They are like a tree planted by the river whose leaf is green and whose fruits fail not. Such is the blessed lesson to be learned from considering the lily. It is the power of nature's parable trumpeting the whole evangel of Jesus - "Come unto ME, and I WILL GIVE YOU REST!"
J. PRESTON EBY
J. PRESTON EBY
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