I want to say a little about the safe place that can be found in Christ where He is, and where He might lead. Particularly in mind is that comment of David’s, “Abide with me, fear not; . . . for with me thou art in safe keeping.” I would like to begin with looking afresh at the place of safety that the soul can find when it flees to Christ.
In this Reading Meeting we will look at some aspects of what Scripture calls our “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). It is a very extensive subject, all centred in a glorious Person – the Lord Jesus. It covers our past; it gives us a wonderful outlook for the future; but it also is something that we need to experience at the present. What a salvation, dear brethren! It is centred for us in the Person of Christ.
I just had in my heart this matter of the day that we are in, and the need of standing.
The picture in Romans is that without Christ, outside of Christ, we are in the mud, we are in the mire, there is no standing, we cannot stand, we collapse, we fail, we fall back into sin, all the resolutions in the world do not work, all the willpower does not work, and we cannot stand. Mephibosheth could not stand – he was lame in both feet (2 Sam 9:13). And that is our position – we are unable to stand.
Now, that was not God’s purpose. And man is unique in that he stands! From all the animals, it is a distinguishing creatorial feature – standing. Why did God do that? Man is upright – man is standing. There is a glory connected with it. God is working to imprint His image and His likeness on man. We deal with a holy and upright God. And a God whose word stands whatever falls; His counsels stand, there is what is firm there – every blessing. And He would imbue that on the creature.
I was just impressed with the awesome wonder of the coming of the Holy Spirit. My father came from a sect of Russian pacifists, the Doukhobors, and as one of their practices they would bow to one another in recognition of the Holy Spirit in one another. That may be a bit over the top, but I like the idea. It is amazing to think that the Holy Spirit has come and is dwelling in the saints. Maybe we could just look at John 14 in this connection.
Then, thinking of the many effects of the Holy Spirit, here are two: sin is reproved, and Christ is exalted. And we get that in Acts 2.
The Incarnation of Christ is an awesome and wondrous fact, and a reality that we can never get enough of. But the coming of the Spirit is so wonderful, powerful, and has such implications, that I just felt, myself, the need to be expanded in the awesome wonder of His coming. So we have Christ here physically – and you can see Him, but only those who have faith really discern Who He is. Then we have the Spirit, and He is not seen – as it comes out in this section in John 14, we cannot see Him.
I want to say a further word about revival. Revival implies that there has been the evidence of life, but that something has happened, so that life has become dulled or stifled. We all know what it is to droop and to flag. The need is to know the secret of being revived. We have all seen the plant in the house; after many days of neglect the flowers begin to droop. Once it is attended to and given food and water, it springs to life again – it revives. That is so like you and me as believers in Christ. If we stray from the source of our sustenance, we begin to droop. How important it is to get back to that source and to be revived!
In these Scriptures I have read, we have the personal service of the Lord Jesus seen in reviving and restoring the soul. Reviving, like the feeding, like the leading, like the anointing in this psalm, is the continuous service of the Shepherd towards His own. As believers, during our whole life, we need times of reviving, and times of restoring. The Shepherd is the key to that revival each day of our lives.
In reading these passages, I had in mind the thought of revival. We live in days that Paul describes to Timothy as difficult days (2 Tim 3:1), and as you look at that section in Timothy, you see how difficult the days are. There has been such a turning away from the things of Jesus Christ. Therefore, from that background, it should be an exercise with us that there may be revival – first of all, in our own hearts, our own lives; then in our local meetings; and finally, revival of interest in the things of Christ in our nation, which largely has turned its back on the Christian faith.
There are times when all of us are particularly aware of the weakness that marks us in our Christian pathway: weakness in our faith, weakness in our understanding, weakness in our localities, and in many other ways. There are many ways in which that is brought home to us, and that is what led me to these three Scriptures.
John the Baptist was marked by weakness of faith; suddenly his faith wobbled. Sometimes that happens to us. Then in John 6 we have Philip overwhelmed by the need that he was faced with. Finally, we see the apostle Paul at his first defence, finding that all his companions left him, and in that situation he could only rely upon the Lord. I trust, as we consider these three passages, we may be encouraged ourselves, as seeing how the Lord strengthens people and brings in help and blessing.
In Matthew 11 we see that John the Baptist is in prison. He had spoken against Herod’s improper marriage, and as a result he was imprisoned, and in the prison, reports were reaching him of what the Lord was doing, blessing and healing, and so on. Perhaps John was beginning to think, ‘Well, if this is what is happening, why is not some of this power devoted to getting me released
suggested these passages because they all speak of the journey of the children of Israel in the wilderness. It is striking how many times the journey through the wilderness is spoken of in the Scriptures. It comes into several of the Psalms and several of the prophets, and Paul draws on it in his teaching to those in Corinth when he says all “these things happened as types of us” (1 Cor 10:6), which makes the subject important in our own day for what it can teach us.
Just so that we can be clear about what the wilderness is for us – I think it is what the world becomes to the believer when the light of Christ really lays hold of our hearts and souls, so that the world is shown up for what it truly is: “Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified” (Rev 11:8). As a result, just as the children of Israel were enabled to move out of Egypt, so you and I are to be enabled to move out, in that sense, of this world. God has called us out of this world, to be a people for His possession (see Deut 7:6; 1 Pet 2:9).