A WAY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS
From Beauty for Ashes George Warnock
CONFLICTS OF THE NEW GENERATION
The Long Journey Around Edom
The people of God tried to make a shortcut through the Land of Edom, but the Edomites would not permit it. Edom was another name for Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. He was the firstborn of the twins, and as the firstborn he should have had the inheritance. But God’s purpose was in Jacob, the second-born. Esau was called Edom (which means, "Red, Ruddy") after he had bartered with Jacob and sold Jacob the birthright for the red pottage. The word Edom is from the same root word as Adam, "to show blood, rosy." Now Paul tells us that the natural man "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him." Edom forced the people of God into a long journey around his borders. The Adam nature waxes more and more corrupt. The natural mind is not subject to the law of God, "neither indeed can be."
Finally they encompass the Land of Edom and cross over the brook Zered. "Zered" means "to be exuberant in growth." It is somewhat of a turning point in the journeyings of the new generation. For them it is a day of new growth; and it is the end of the old generation: "And the space in which we came from Kadesh-Barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host..." (Deut. 2:14).
Conflict With Moab
God would not let Israel attack Moab, even as He would not let them attack Edom. But the presence of the people of God dwelling so close to their borders filled the Moabites with great fear, and they hired Balaam the sorcerer to come and curse the people of God. Israel’s conflict through the main part of their wilderness life was really with their own hearts. But now as the people of God begin to emerge from the wilderness way, there is a new conflict: a conflict with false gods and with evil spirits. We are in that day right now. What was once but a human attack, a war of reason, an attack of the flesh, is quickly becoming a war against spirits.
Evil spirits are assuming control in many areas of society and of the Church, and God’s people are finding it increasingly difficult to know what is right and what is wrong. The time is now here when those demonic forces which once operated in the East (in gurus, medicine men, etc.) are now beginning to take up strong positions in the Church; and Christians are unaware of it because it is nicely clothed in "Christian" language. When the people of God are misled into thinking that the Kingdom of God is related to power and authority over this world’s resources, over its governments, over its political and economic forces... when the Kingdom of God is presented as something synonymous with success, prosperity, and wealth... there and then Satan has found a fertile soil into which he can plant the seeds of deception.
Even physical health can be a deceptive thing if we use questionable powers to tap into it. For why would Satan deny us physical health if we use Satanic methods to get it? Is it a real healing if Satan should withdraw his attack on our body, so long as he can retain control of our spirit? And is it, in fact, a real healing? The alleviation of pain and deliverance from certain physical afflictions has long been associated with the practices of the occult. Is it healing? No! It is but a sedative that the Enemy imparts, in order that he might take control of the minds and spirits of people.
Our Lord Jehovah declares, "I am the LORD that healeth thee," and this is the heritage of the people of God. But it is a covenant promise, and for its appropriation God requires an obedient, covenant-walking people. The fact that this present generation of the Church is afflicted equally with the people of the world is proof that we have not walked in covenant-relationship with our God. Truth has been so perverted that if we find wealth, health, prosperity, and happiness, the means by which we find it are incidental to most people. If the results are "good," this must prove that the methods are of God.
God forbid that we should find gain without godliness, physical healing without spiritual healing, prosperity to the natural man without prosperity to the spiritual man, peace of mind without the peace of God. Is this disturbing to some of you who believe that anything that produces happiness and peace and blessing must be of God? I hope it is disturbing. Because true blessedness has nothing to do with that at all. The teaching of Christ concerning the Kingdom of God speaks on this wise:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:3-8).
The Doctrine Of Balaam
The most distressing thing about Israel’s conflict with Moab, and with Balaam the sorcerer, was this: God would not allow any enchantment from the false prophet to come upon the people of God, and yet Balaam got what he wanted through deception and guile:
"Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob... What hath God wrought!" (Num. 23:23).
BUT... the people who could not be cursed by Balaam’s enchantments, were allured and deceived by his teachings. Balaam encouraged the king of Moab to suggest fraternization with the people of God, and to invite them to one of their socials and the people of God were ensnared by the gods of Moab; and through "the counsel of Balaam" there fell a very great plague among the congregation of Israel. (See Num. 31:16.)
"And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods..." (Num. 25:1-2). The word "they" is feminine in the Hebrew, and refers back to the daughters of Moab. Twenty-four thousand valiant men of the new generation fell under the wiles of the daughters of Moab and perished in God’s judgments, when God rose up to take vengeance on every man who had been seduced to worship Baalpeor, the Moabite deity.
Who Is Baal, The God Of The Moabites?
Baalpeor was the Moabite deity that was worshipped on Mount Peor with all manner of immoral rites. According to historical and archeological discoveries, Baal is seen to be the god of fertility, the farm god, the god of agriculture, the god of increase ... the god of prosperity. The cult was rampant in Canaan, and throughout her history the people of God fell victims to the lure of Baal worship. Baal worship was conducted by priests in the temples of Baal, or in the outdoors, or in certain "high places" in the land. Animal sacrifices were included in their rituals, along with licentious dances, and immoral practices. The female associate goddess was called "Ashtoreth"... and all manner of immorality was practiced. There were male prostitutes and female prostitutes, all associated with temple worship. The cult was rampant in Canaan, and when Israel failed to completely wipe out the seven abominable nations of Canaan (as God had commanded them), they soon succumbed to the subtle attractions of this kind of worship; and it remained a curse in their midst, and a grief to the heart of God, throughout much of their history.
It is not difficult to see in the land today, not just a similarity to what they had in ancient Canaan, but almost a reproduction of the same licentious rites and practices as they had then. We can expect such things in the world about us, for Jesus said it would be as it was in the days of Sodom. But little by little the doctrine of Balaam is being incorporated into the doctrine of the Church. It all starts with an avowed worship of the "God of prosperity and happiness"... the God who gives success, achievement, gain, wealth, happiness. What has this got to do with immorality and licentiousness? Very much. What were the chief sins of Sodom? What was the basic sin of Sodom? God pin-points it very clearly. He says it was... "PRIDE, FULNESS OF BREAD, AND ABUNDANCE OF IDLENESS..." (Ezek. 16:49).
It was their high standard of living that led to all the other things that we particularly associate with Sodom. And it is no wonder that in our land where we have such wealth and abundance that we are reaping an unspeakable harvest of immorality, licentiousness, adultery, divorce, unfaithfulness, and so forth. Not only out there in the world, but now, right in the Church. Not only that, but all the while we are reaping such a harvest, the seeds which produced the harvest continue to be sown by men in the pulpit, who are presenting success, wealth, prosperity, and happiness as the fruit of faith, as the fruit of Christian achievement.
The real tragedy is not just the fact that people in the Church are becoming immoral like the world about them. The tragedy is that the spirits of Baal are actively involved in this seductive kind of teaching, and the people of God are not aware of it.
God has a controversy with this world-conforming church at Pergamos, which dwells where Satan’s throne is, and He is going to purge the "doctrine of Balaam" (who promotes Baal worship among the people of God) out of our midst; not with the javelin of Phinehas as in Moses’ day, but with "the sharp sword with two edges" that proceedeth out of His mouth (Rev. 2:12-14).
Conflict With Sihon And Og
"Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle. This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven" (Deut. 2:2~25).
In the crossing of the Arnon they entered for the first time the borders of their inheritance. "Arnon" means "a rushing stream," and is from a root word meaning "to shout (for joy)." Here they would "begin to possess" the Land that God had promised them. It was just a beginning... a very small beginning, in fact. The real measure of their inheritance lay across the Jordan. But some of the people were ready to settle for this land, and desired to go no further.
The Inheritance Of Reuben, Gad, And Half Of Manasseh
When these tribes saw the fertility and abundance of the land that they taken from Og and Sihon they were anxious to lay claim to it and settle down. They came to Moses and said, "If we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan" (Num. 32:5). At first Moses was angry with them, for their seeming desire to proceed no further into the conquest of Canaan. But when they assured Moses that they would "go ready armed" into battle against the Canaanites, until the rest of the tribes had received their inheritance, Moses relented. He commanded Eleazar the priest and Joshua the new leader, to give them their request, as long as they were faithful in helping their brethren to enter into their inheritance west of the Jordan. We must have no condemnation for those who desire to set up camp on the eastern banks of the Jordan.
We know the inheritance they have there is only partial, and very limited; but it is nevertheless the beginnings of fruitfulness. If some find true delight and fulfillment there, who are we to accuse them of failure... or of disobedience? As we look about us we can see many of God’s people who are finding joy and delight in the pasture lands of Gilead, and sometimes we may be inclined to envy them. They have found the desire of their hearts. They are happy and contented right where they are. And God is blessing them abundantly. They are fruitful in ministry and in service for the Lord. They have large flocks and herds. Why can’t we be like that? The fact is, the vision that God has implanted, and the hope that burns within, will not permit us to settle on the eastern plains of the Jordan.
We just know there is more, much more than we can see here. It is not that we are unthankful, dissatisfied, or disgruntled... as some may think. What was wrong with Abraham anyway? There he was dwelling in Hebron, the choice part of Canaan. Why did he always insist that he was but a "stranger and pilgrim" in the earth? Are you not at home, Abraham? Abraham could never feel "at home" because in following on to know the LORD, and in touching the heart of God, he had become increasingly aware that there had to be something better, something more enduring, than a beautiful country such as he had discovered there at Hebron. This is what the Spirit revealed to the apostle Paul. If Abraham was a "stranger and pilgrim in the earth, then he was declaring plainly that he looked for a "better country"... he "looked for a City which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (Heb. 11:10,16).
Your desire for something better, something more fulfilling, something more enduring, is related directly to your walk of obedience before the LORD. For in measure as God has enabled you to walk in obedience before Him, so in like measure has He been able to draw nigh to you, to walk with you, and to cause you to become more and more aware of that great longing that He has in His heart for a permanent HOME in your heart. What He has revealed and what He has given, you recognize as being good and wonderful. But what He has BECOME to you means much more than His gifts. And the glory of His Being, His character, His nature, His love, His Truth... all these reflect more and more of that inheritance on the other side of Jordan for which your heart longs and for which your spirit yearns. And whereas at one time we may have gloried in what He DID for us; now we glory more in what He IS to us. Once it may have been great in our eyes to be USED of the Lord; but now we desire only to WALK with Him. Once it was much service, much activity, much ministry, that filled us with a sense of gratification and fulfillment; now it is rather in simple abiding relationship with Him that we find our delight; and if this be not so yet in actual experience, it is nevertheless our abiding and constant hope.
If we do not know the difference between service and relationship, perhaps we should ask the Lord to test the motives of our hearts.
Is it enough that we should walk with Him, and know His voice? Or do we have that uneasy feeling that if our ministry lags, and we are becoming less and less active in our service for Him, that somehow we are losing ground? Was Jesus more spiritual when He healed the sick and raised the dead than He was when He set His face as a flint for Jerusalem, and walked the rugged pathway up Golgotha’s heights? Was it not all the same to Him, to know that in either case He was simply doing the will of God?
"Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God...."
"My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work..."
New Expectation On The Plains Of Moab
As Reuben, and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh took their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan, they must have felt a certain satisfaction in knowing that God had been faithful in giving them the desires of their heart. Their part in any future conquests would not in any way enlarge their borders, it was just part of the deal they had made with Moses. When the battle was over, they would return to the beautiful plains of Gilead, and there establish their homes. In any future battles, in any future conquests, theirs would always be the backward look.
But with the other nine and a half tribes in Israel there was expectation and hope for something they did not have on the plains of Gilead. Theirs was a living hope in every conquest they would make. "For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom. 8:24-25).
The nine and a half tribes belonged to the western side of the Jordan. They were bent upon new conquests, new areas of triumph in God, new explorations in the Land of Promise: new heights, new lengths, new breadths in God that must be appropriated. It is the forward look, the upward call, that urges us on. We have not yet come to the Rest, and to the inheritance that God has promised. There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.
The Conquest Of Canaan Becomes Increasingly More Difficult
With every delay to the conquering of the inheritance that we experience because of human failure, the task becomes that much more difficult. Every time God moves mightily by His Spirit, and the people of God for one reason or another are defeated and turned back into the wilderness, the next attempt at conquering the Land seems to become more and more remote. But there is a principle in God, and one that we have emphasized over and over, and it is this: When God has sent His Word into the earth concerning His purposes for His people, HE WILL NOT TAKE THAT WORD BACK unfulfilled, unfinished, uncompleted. That Word will remain in the earth, until it has accomplished the desire of His heart: "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it SHALL NOT RETURN UNTO ME VOID, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:10-11).
Some may confess that God has seen fit to take back that Word, because we have come to the end and it’s too late now for God to do what He had planned. Some may confess that there is nothing to be expected but a sudden removal of the Church from the earth... like a farmer would reap his green fields of wheat when it appears that a devastating storm is on its way. At least, then, he would have fodder for his flocks.
But Our Confession Is A Living Hope
We confess that His Word is in the earth concerning a harvest that is coming forth that will be ripe, that will be full, that will be like the good Seed that was planted: some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, AND SOME ONE HUNDRED-FOLD... We confess that we hear that Word, and therefore we speak it .
We confess that we have a living hope that His Church will yet become a "glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or blemish, or any such thing"...
We confess that the Lord has delayed His coming, as He intimated He might have to do, that with "long patience" He has waited "for the precious fruit of the earth"; and that the Day of Harvest is now very nigh at hand...
We confess that the Judge now stands at the Door, to purge His Church, and then to judge the world...
We confess that the Husbandman is preparing laborers for His harvest field... and that shortly they will reap the fields that are fast coming to maturity... and that very soon He will say to the reapers: "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap... for the harvest of the earth is ripe" (Rev. 14:15). Notice in this passage that the word "ripe" is from a Greek word that means "more than ripe, dry, mature, withered." Is this the way you feel sometimes? Think it not strange; in the Day of Harvest the fields of grain must become very dry, in order that it may be threshed, and the chaff driven away.
Yes, it is going to become increasingly more difficult for God to bring His people into the inheritance; it is more difficult now than at any time in the history of the Church. This simply means that the God who promised must give more and more grace, and more and more of His Glory, to accomplish the task.
In a previous writing ("Feed My Sheep"), we dealt somewhat with the flooding of the Jordan at the time of Israel’s passage across the river into Canaan... God making it even more difficult for their entry into the Land. We mentioned how the priests bore the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders and led the way; how they dipped their feet in the waters, and saw the waters cut off before their eyes; and how they stood with the Ark in the bottom of the river while the people of God passed over. We spoke of their encampment on the western side of the river, in preparation for the attack on Jericho; and of the circumcision of the new generation on the plains of Gilgal and how God was making it increasingly difficult for the new generation to survive, incapacitated for battle in the presence of their enemies. And now the man Moses had just died; the man who had the authority for leadership, and the expertise for battle. In all the way that the Lord led the new generation we can see less and less likelihood of a successful conquest of the Land. Everything was against them. Weakened by the wiles of the daughters of Moab and their forces decimated by God’s wrath as He slew 24,000 men, and then at Gilgal totally crippled before their enemies.
What was God doing anyway? He was making it utterly impossible for them to attain to the promise EXCEPT BY A MIGHTY AND MIRACULOUS DISPLAY OF HIS OWN POWER AND GRACE AND GLORY. For He alone was to be glorified in the sight of the chosen nation; and He alone was to be glorified in the sight of the wicked nations of the land.
When we see and understand how Jealous our God is for the Glory of His great Name, these things that we are talking about ought not to be considered some far-out teaching... something we can just lay aside as irrelevant to the purpose of God in this hour. It is in a day and hour such as this, when apostasy is rampant, and the Name of our Lord is blasphemed among the nations, that we can expect and anticipate the Jealous God to rise up and vindicate His great Name in a holy, conquering, godly remnant in the earth.
THE HEAVENLY CANAAN
Many of God’s people do not understand why, after spending perhaps many years in comparative ease and contentment in their little corner of church activity and involvement, suddenly they are no longer satisfied with the monotonous routine and they are raising questions of concern. Why, Lord? When? How? What? As we mentioned, these are the questions that pertain to the Manna; and all we can say is, the Manna is having its effect in their lives. They have been eating of the wilderness food, and as a result there is an increasing hunger for a greater reality in their lives. This is God’s ongoing work in the wilderness people, and we just want to encourage the people of God who are somewhat discouraged, disillusioned, or perplexed about the state of things in their own lives or in the Body of Christ, to lift up their eyes and see the Glory of Beulah Land:
"Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah [My delight is in her], and thy land Beulah [Married]: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married" (Isa. 62:4).
Let us not get excited about the little excursions that people are trying to make into the land these days as they try to grab another branch of grapes from the valley of Eschol, or fill their sacks with a few more pomegranates. The time is here when God would mobilize a new generation for conquest of the whole land, and we cannot settle for anything less.
Canaan, A Place Of Victory
"He... brought thee out in His sight... to drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance..." (Deut. 4:37-38).
Canaan is that heavenly heritage that God wants His people to begin to explore and to appropriate; and therefore it is a place to be conquered, because it is in this realm that the forces of evil would seek to maintain their strongholds over the hearts and minds of people. The "heavenlies" in Christ Jesus are those realms in the Spirit that belong to God’s people (Eph. 1:3, 20); and that is why our warfare is in that realm, and not in realms of the earth (Eph. 6:12). Yes, we are in the earth, and we are concerned about the state of affairs in the earth; but if our warfare is THERE we will accomplish NOTHING for the inhabitants of the earth.
We must war "in heavenly places" with spiritual armor, and with spiritual weapons, or we accomplish absolutely nothing. Nor can we mix the carnal with the spiritual in order to strike a balance. Spiritual warfare in the heavenlies and carnal, political maneuvering in the earth will not bring a balance, but a stalemate. God grant unto His people in this hour such a confrontation with Himself that we will take our shoes from off our feet, like Joshua of old, and step into the shoes of "the preparation of the gospel of peace." Only then shall God’s people know how to go forth against their Jerichos, with the trumpet blasts of the rams’ horns, and the Ark of His presence, and see the strongholds of the Enemy crumble before Him.
The Church for many years now has wanted to be "caught up" to be with the Lord in the air... but actually it has been a desire to escape from the Battle. We know that Day is coming; and not only in our spirits, but in glorified and resurrected bodies we shall be "caught up to be with the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord." We earnestly anticipate that Day; but we must continue to emphasize that this is to happen at the "last trump," and not at the first, or the second one. First of all there is the Day of Battle; and for that God has provided for His people NOT WINGS BUT ARMOR!
"The night is far spent,
The day is at hand:
Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness,
And let us put on THE ARMOUR OF LIGHT" (Rom. 13:12).
Any doctrine that says the Lord must delay His coming because certain events have yet to take place, is not scriptural . for the "Coming" of the Lord certainly involves many aspects of His appearing that are without warning, without imminent signs, without universal recognition. We are not talking about "Many Comings," for the Bible says He will "appear the SECOND TIME"-- not a second, third, and fourth times. But we speak of aspects of His Appearing. The same scripture that says He will appear "the second time" also states that He has already appeared ONCE (Heb. 9:28).
But in that ONE appearing, were there not many, many aspects of His appearing? First to Mary and Joseph; then to the shepherds; then to the faithful in the temple, Simeon and Anna; then to the wise men from the East; then to John the Baptist in the Jordan; and then to Peter and to the other apostles as God granted revelation to "see" Him, and to "know" Him. And finally He was "declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." But it was all ONE APPEARING. And so we are confident that in His SECOND appearing there will be many aspects of it: as He comes suddenly to His Temple to purge the sons of Levi, as He appears in refining fire, in fullers’ soap; as the wise virgins enter in behind closed doors, and the foolish stand without knocking; as He appears to His own, "comes" and takes up His abode in those who love Him, and have made for Him a habitation; as He "comes" to the unrepentant in Ephesus and removes their candlestick; as He "comes" to Pergamos to fight against them with the sword of His mouth; and as He "comes" as a thief to Sardis and finds them unwatchful and asleep. (See Mal. 3:1-2; Matt. 25:6-11; Jn. 14:21,23; Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:3.)
I know it would be nice if we could come up with a sound, scriptural schedule for all the events that are to take place relative to the Second Coming; and there are many who attempt to do that very thing. I personally would not waste my time trying to do this; because I know there is only one way we are going to be prepared for the Second Coming... and it is not by knowing the time-table, but by being "watchful" and "sober." To such the Lord does not appear as a "thief in the night." To all others He will, regardless of their understanding of end-time events. (See 1 Thess. 5:4; Mark 13:35-37.)
And so while many are hoping to be translated physically to heavenly places to escape the Battle that lies before us, there is a holy, conquering remnant who will "see" Him and "know" Him, and rise to "heavenly places" in the Spirit to war a good warfare in the Day of the LORD, and emerge from the Battle in total victory. There is absolutely nothing lacking in the "Armor of Light" that we require for total conquest over the evil hosts of Satan. Notice that when Paul tells us to put on the "whole armor" he specifically tells us that it is for "THE EVIL DAY" (Eph. 6:13).
Can you conceive of any day that is more "evil" than this Day, this Day of His Appearing? Most of our weaponry is defensive; because the Enemy can defeat us in our own territory if we do not realize that WE ARE THE INHERITANCE that he wants to keep for himself, and which God would overcome for Himself. We are that battle-ground which the Enemy will continue to war; and God has given us the battle-dress that we need to maintain our position in God’s righteousness, truth, and grace.
But we do have one "offensive" weapon... and one is all we need. How we wish God’s people could understand that! "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God..." And it is not the Bible, nor our many quotations of Scripture that we toss about to prove our doctrines... IT IS THAT LIVING WORD THAT PROCEEDETH OUT OF THE MOUTH OF THE LORD AS A SHARP TWO-EDGED SWORD, that will slay and cut asunder, dividing soul and spirit, and discerning, uncovering the thoughts and the intents of the heart.
"God, hide us in Your mighty hand, that when You see fit to draw us forth in the Day of Battle, You may be able to speak through us a quickened Word that will strike unerringly in the hearts of Your people, and deal a death-blow to the hosts of wickedness that are arrayed against Your Church."
Canaan, A Place Of Flowing Waters
"A good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills" (Deut. 8:7).
God said He would bring us OUT to bring us IN. Out from the land of Egypt where they had to water their land with their foot, with the crude irrigation pumps they had in those days... pumping, pumping, pumping, and wearing themselves out to get a trickle of water. "But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven" (Deut. 11:11).
How we long for those days when the Spirit of God comes into our midst in abundant fullness, and flows in our midst. Instead of God’s ministers trying to "pump" up a little water with the sweat of their brow. Better to have a little trickle of water than none at all... Yes, that may be true; but Jesus has promised us in the heritage of the Spirit, "Out of his innermost being shall flow RIVERS OF LIVING WATER."
"I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert... to give drink to my people, my chosen" (Isa. 43:19-20).
"I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water" (Isa. 41:18).
"And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water..." (Isa. 35:7).
Canaan, A Place Of Fruitfulness
"A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing." (Deut. 8:8-9).
Isaiah prophesied that when the Spirit was poured out upon God’s people, that "the wilderness" would be "a fruitful field, and the fruitful field" would be "counted for a forest" (Isa. 32:15).
In Israel’s feast days, when all the people were to come together to keep the feasts of the LORD in their season, God promised: "They shall not appear before the LORD empty" (Deut. 16:16). Every man would have something to bring before the LORD, as God enabled. Let the ministers of the Lord everywhere begin to so nurture the people of God that they shall have something to bring to the House of God when they assemble together. You wonder about the divisions and the schisms that are so prevalent in the House of God? God says it is because there are members in the Body that are considered to be "less honorable," and that as He bestows more abundant honor upon them, the schism will disappear. (See 1 Cor. 12:23-25.) Keeping the people under control and in their place will sooner or later lead to a "schism." But as God’s people are fed and nourished, and encouraged to function as a vital contributing member in the Body of Christ, the schisms will disappear; because all the members will have mutual concern one for the other. The day of Saul’s over-lordship in the House of God is coming to an end; and God is going to raise up a David-Shepherd ministry that will feed His people with Truth and Knowledge, and make them to be mighty in God:
"And he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them" (Zech. 12:8).
True fruitfulness is not mere church activity and church involvement. It is a life that has come into union with the Lord, and that delights the heart of the Husbandman. Ephraim was that tribe in Israel that was to be especially "fruitful." The word means "double fruitfulness." The anointed people, the "double portion" people, are to be doubly fruitful unto the Lord. Joseph was to have a double portion through Ephraim. (Manasseh was firstborn, but he must give way to Ephraim, the second-born.
Manasseh means "caused to forget," and it is only as we are prepared to "forget those things which are behind," the life of the desolate wilderness, that we are going to reach forth unto those things which lie before.) Of Joseph it was said, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall" (Gen. 49:22). But God complained about Ephraim in later centuries, "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself..." (Hos. 10:1). How many of God’s people today, how many of His ministers, are bringing forth fruit unto themselves? Very active, yes; very busy for God, yes; but like Martha, "careful and troubled about many things" rather than the ONE THING THAT IS NEEDFUL, to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear what He has to say.
Then as we sit at His feet, and learn of Him... as our roots go down to the waters of the well where we are planted... then will our branches go "over the wall" for OTHERS. God will take care of that if we but abide faithful, rooted and grounded in Him, who is the true spring of Life by which we are planted.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is..." The apostle is about to name many kinds of fruit, but it is all ONE FRUIT, and so he uses the singular verb ..."The fruit of the Spirit IS: Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith[-fulness], Meekness, Temperance. .(Gal. 5:22-23). All this is first and foremost for the delight and joy of the heart of the Husbandman; but as it delights His heart, so will He long to share the fruit He has found with others.
God has always desired the "firstfruits" for Himself. God was consistent in this in His relationship with Israel. The "firstborn" was to be His. The "firstfruits" were to be His. "My soul desired the firstripe fruit" (Mic. 7:1).
If we truly love God, then we will show our love to others; but God desires that we give Him the firstfruits. He must have His portion before all others. Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will keep my words" (John 14:23).
We cannot say, "Lord, I love you so much... I must go forth in ministry... I love you so much .. I must preach, I must build churches, I must be a missionary... I will give you my money..." These and many more acts of service that we may come up with could proceed from the longing of our own heart for some kind of gratification, some kind of fulfillment. True love will say, "Lord, I love you so much I give you myself." And this could lead to many different areas of outreach. But it could also lead to a life that is very unobtrusive, insignificant, self-effacing, unrecognized in the affairs of men or of the Church. You may never become "known" and "recognized" as having any worth to God or to the world about you, but you will be known in heavenly places.
Your work may be considered of little or no value in the eyes of men, and oftentimes in your own eyes, but it is something you must do because of your love-relationship with the Lord, and it is of great value in His sight. Your love for Him may bring you into areas of reproach and criticism that may be difficult for you to bear. But if it is because you "love HIM" and are "keeping His Word," then that fruit that you are bringing forth unto Him is not the fruit of an empty vine, but a special kind of "firstfruits" that brings great delight to His heart. In God’s sight it is far more precious than the "fruit" you endeavor to produce as you do your own thing, go your own way, initiate your own plans, and bring forth some kind of a product that is acceptable and pleasing to men, but disapproved of God.
Only those who themselves have learned the ways of God will approve of the ways of those who walk in relationship with Him. We need to be delivered from the inherent desire that is in all of us to be "approved of men".
Then as we are planted "by the Well," and confined within the Wall of His Will, God in His own time and way will see to it that our branches "run over the wall." These are the branches that bring forth fruit unto others. Others will then eat of the fruit and rejoice in the strength and the life and the joy that it brings to their hearts. Perhaps they do not know... perhaps they shall never discover... that it is from the vine of Joseph they are eating, "whose feet were hurt with fetters... whose soul was laid in iron." But God knows that it was He who caused that wall to be built, and that He did it in order to shut the man Joseph in unto Himself. And God Himself was the first to partake of the pleasant fruit from the vine of Joseph. The fruit inside the wall was for God alone. God delighted Himself in the fruit of Joseph’s love, his patience, his longsuffering, his faithfulness, his meekness, his gentleness, his goodness, his self-control.
And because these virtues caused His heart to rejoice He said, "I must share this fruit with others... I must share this fruit with the people of Egypt... I must share this fruit with the children of Israel." But how can mortal man bring forth fruit to delight the heart of God? Only if that fruit is from the Seed that came forth out of the heart of God Himself. Only if it is the reproduction of the nature and likeness of God Himself. For then it is not the work of Man but the "fruit of the Spirit." Mortal man is merely the garden plot, only the dust of the ground, out of which God is able to bring forth "Fruit after His kind."
Canaan, A Land Prepared
"Great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not, and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not..." (Deut. 6:10-11).
Cities we do not build; storehouses we do not fill; wells we do not dig; and vineyards we do not plant... because it is a PREPARED PLACE FOR A PREPARED PEOPLE. Canaan is the realm of the Spirit; and it is here in the wilderness areas of our lives, and in the lives of men, that God would bring forth and manifest this fruitfulness. God will give our enemies no credit for having built the cities, filled the storehouses, dug the wells, or planted the vineyards. And when men say "It is good that there is evil in the world, and God actually designed it for His glory," they are actually heaping condemnation on themselves. Paul did teach that God was able to bring forth GOOD out of EVIL, and some misconstrued this to mean, "It is good that we have evil, so that God can be glorified." But Paul would not so much as argue the point. He simply replied, "Their condemnation is just who say such things" (Rom. 3:7-8). It is a perverted concept of God that says, "God made the evil.... God created the Devil just as he is... because He needed such a one to fulfill His purposes." Paul refuses to even argue against such perversion of Truth.
And so there are vast areas out there in the wilderness of life that are ready and waiting for the people of God to subdue. And we are going to discover, if we follow on in the ways of the Lord, that what the Enemy planned and subdued for his own dominion and for his own glory, these areas are going to be conquered and subdued for God. Men and women who hated God with a passion are going to love Him with as great a passion. The bondage they once knew in servitude to Satan will cease; and many who were captives and slaves to Satan will become equally captivated and enslaved to the will of God.
Yet in partaking of this new kind of captivity, captivity unto their Lord who redeemed them, they are going to discover true freedom, and true rest, and true joy. For he who once enslaved them is master of lies and deceit and murder and hate; whereas He who liberated them is Master of Truth, and Faithfulness, and Life, and Love. Can we conceive of any higher form of liberty and freedom than to be enslaved and made captive unto Him who is TOTAL LOVE AND TOTAL TRUTH AND TOTAL LIFE? In vain are we going to discover any kind of real liberation in coming to KNOW ourselves, and exploring the hidden resources of our own talents, our own natural, soulish natures. This kind of research and exploration merely increases the bondage. And as we seek to explore our own hidden resources, our own inward deity, all the while thinking to discover the key to life and freedom and power, we are becoming more and more enslaved to the "Prince of Darkness."
Do you want to find the true "key" to happiness and freedom? There is only one way. Like the Hebrew servant of old, having served his time in bondage and having been liberated according to the law of God, then out of love for his master he came and submitted his ear to be pierced at the door-post of his master’s house, and saying through that act of committal to the one he loved: "I love you so much, I want to be your bondservant forever... My true freedom and joy is in serving you..."
A Life Prepared
We mentioned that Canaan was a prepared place for a prepared people. This is what the wilderness was all about: to prepare our hearts through entanglements, through tasting of bitter waters, through knowing hunger and thirst in a dry and barren place, through the purging of our desires... until we come forth as the PREPARED PEOPLE for this PREPARED PLACE.
If Canaan speaks of a Land in the Spirit that has to be subdued for God, then how can we expect to partake of it if our own lives are ruled by self and the carnal nature? We must first allow the Lord to subdue our own wilderness if we are going to subdue the hearts of men, and overthrow the principalities and powers that dominate them, and bring them into the liberty and the freedom of Christ. This is why the weapons of are warfare cannot in any sense be earthly and carnal. This is why our weapons consist of such virtues as Truth about our loins, Righteousness as a breastplate, the preparation of the Gospel of Peace for our shoes, Faith as our shield, Salvation as our helmet, the Word of God as our one and only offensive weapon, and PRAYER--continuing prayer--that causes all these other weapons to be effectual and mighty.
Seven spiritual weapons to overcome the seven powerful nations of Canaan! And Paul tells us that these are all we need: he says our weapons constitute the "whole armor," a complete battle-dress, with nothing lacking.
Many ministers will admit, "Yes, we need Truth and Righteousness and all that"--but their thought is--"Let’s get on with the Battle." They completely fail to understand that there is no getting on with the Battle until these virtues are wrought in the hearts of God’s people. We hear much of the necessity of "preaching the Gospel" and scarcely anything about the SHOES OF PREPARATION.
Unless our feet are shod with the shoes of preparation there will be no effective Gospel preached to the nations. O, the gimmicks that men in the Church have come up with to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Drama, and musical entertainment, and dance troupes, mime and make-believe and clowns... and the blessed Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has become a sad, polluted mixture. But there is a people in the earth who are putting on the Shoes of Preparation, and when they are sent forth into the earth with the everlasting Gospel on their lips, they shall walk in the prepared ways of the Lord, bringing deliverance to the captives.
The Walk in the Spirit is a walk in the Prepared Life. And when we know this we are relieved of any responsibility as to the Way we are to take, or the work that we are to accomplish. We must recognize this, and not seek in any way to get involved with our own strategies, our own thoughts. The prophet tells us that these are as far below God’s thoughts, as the earth is below the heavens. Paul tells us that the mind of the flesh is "enmity against God" and that it is "not subject to the law of God." He tells us that the natural man "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God," that they are foolishness unto him.
If we pursue the Life in the Spirit we are pursuing an unknown pathway. Yes, some have travelled it before, but it remains an unknown pathway. I mean, though we read about it and know about it, we must discover it for ourselves. This is what we are to learn in our wilderness walk. It is a way that God prepares in the entanglements of life. We cannot mark out for ourselves a smooth and a plain pathway. But as we learn God’s way in this realm, we are going to find that God is by His Spirit seeking to lead us out of the old way of life, and into a new prepared way of the Spirit. It is not in man to know it, or to search it out...
"There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen: the lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it...
"Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof...
"Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air...
"Then did He see it, and declare it; HE PREPARED IT, yea, and SEARCHED IT OUT... "And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." (See Job 28:7-28.)
It is a Way that God has PREPARED for them that fear Him ... fear Him enough that they will fear to go their own Way or do their own thing.
We come to God as helpless, hopeless sinners and find mercy, and He sovereignly brings us into a realm of New Creation. And then it seems the people of God are encouraged to go their way, and do the best they can with God’s help. But Paul exhorts us to walk by the rule of New Creation life. (See Gal. 6:15-16.) It is the Rule of the Cloud... the Law of the Spirit... a Law of Life... and therefore it is not in the heart of man to comprehend or understand it.
This was Nicodemus’ problem. He was a man of great wisdom and understanding as far as this world goes, and as far as the "Church" of his day was concerned. He was a teacher in Israel; but Jesus would show him a way into a totally new kind of life:
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (Jn. 3:8).
Evangelical Christianity has no problem with that. We know it means the Spirit has moved upon our hearts very sovereignly we don’t know how... and brought us to new birth in a manner far beyond our ability to comprehend. BUT WE MUST WALK BY THE SAME RULE! WE MUST LIVE BY THE SAME LAW OF THE SPIRIT!
We do not know where the Spirit comes from and whither He would lead us. O yes, we know He comes from the heart of God but here in our daily lives, here in the Land that has to be subdued for God, we fail to recognize this principle. We do not know the course that the Wind of His Spirit will take. We do not know what He has planned and devised. We do not know whither He would lead us. And this causes us to feel very insecure. We want a charted course. But it is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen. And so we would yield so readily to the temptation to chart our own course... or more likely still, to get involved with some kind of religious structure that will do it for us. They are more experienced, so we would find safety under their canopy, under their covering, under their shelter. And so we read their history, how their movement started, and try and convince ourselves that the goals which they hope to reach are valid and scriptural. We think in this way we might discover "from whence the Wind cometh... and whither it goeth." And this may give us a certain sense of security and safety.
But the man of the Spirit Way cannot become fettered with rules and regulations. He must walk in the Spirit. He must find himself in the Wind of the Spirit... in the flow of the River of God. At first, like Ezekiel of old, he will walk hesitatingly into the waters. It is a vast River, and he must tread carefully. A step or two... Then he finds himself in water up to his ankles. The stream is getting more forceful as he moves on, and fear grips his heart. Now the water is up to his knees... now up to his loins. But still he hears the words: "Keep walking... Keep coming to Me... Do not be afraid..." Suddenly he finds he can no longer touch bottom; they are waters "to swim in" and he is swept along in the current.
He has lost control! He is carried along in the current of the River of the Spirit of God! He does not know whence it cometh, and whither it goeth!
But as he is carried along in the flow of the Spirit he begins to lose his fear. He discovers that it is a River of Peace, and that all fears have been swept away. For this River flows out from the heart of God, and will return to the heart of God... and he will return with it. He has found all his springs are in Zion. He has not yet seen the City, except by faith, like Abraham of old, who saw it afar off: a City which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. But though he sees it not, he knows the River is flowing out from the City, and unto the City.
Ezekiel lost his footings when he found "waters to swim in." And so it must be with the people who come into the realm of the Spirit. No longer can we calculate, and plan, and devise, and arrange, and order, and organize, and control...
It is the Way of the Spirit! It is the Way of New Birth! It is the Way of the Wind! We hear the "sound" and that is enough. We know the Voice, and the Voice is assuring. We have not gone this Way before, but He has... and He wants us to walk in the Way that He has prepared.
Do I sense a certain fear in hearts when I say the man of the Spirit has "lost control"? I did not say he is out of control, or that he is not under control. Rather, the Spirit of God is now in control. Is that to be considered dangerous? Or would you feel a little more secure if your carnal mind were to remain in control? Or is some religious organization was to remain in control? Or if some outstanding apostle or prophet was to have the control?
There are so many in the religious world who feel comfortable and secure in the systems of men, and they fear the unknown Way. But the people who have committed their whole way of life to Him, and into the care of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus, shall know the joy and the peace and the rest of the River of God when the heavens and the earth are shaken, and when the mountains are dissolved in the depths of the sea:
"Therefore will not we fear,
Though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried
Into the midst of the sea....
There is a River,
The streams whereof shall make glad
The City of God,
The holy place of the tabernacles
Of the Most High" (Ps. 46:2, 4).
We do not understand all the implications of this. But we do know that when the heavens and the earth are shaken, and the mountains are dissolved in the sea... whether by the devices of men or by the fire of God... there is going to be a people flowing in the River of God, making glad His City, "the Holy Place of the Tabernacles of the Most High."
There is a spirit that controls the course of this world. It is the spirit of Satan, "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in [activates, energizes] the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). He has succeeded in totally captivating the spirits and souls and bodies of men and women, making them to be the "bondslaves of sin" (Rom. 6:17). They think they are FREE but they are not. They are prisoners to the spirit of the world and of Satan. They are totally under his control. Only the Light of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can set them free.
Let us fear that kind of control; and having been delivered from it, let us "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath set us free."
But never let us fear to be caught in the flow of His cleansing, purifying, life-giving River; for it is the River of God, the River of Truth, the River of Freedom, the River of Joy, the River of Wisdom, the River of Knowledge, the River of Life, the River of Love that flows ceaselessly from the heart of God and through the Land of our Inheritance!