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April 9

9 APR – God’s Reaction in Purpose

History is marked by repeated reactions on the part of God. We have devoted a whole book to show something of these specific reactions (God’s Reactions to Man’s Defections), but it is necessary to mention it here in special relation to the Purpose. We have seen that God’s method and instrument in this matter has been an elect people. Election particularly relates to purpose; it is not willy-nilly, nor arbitrary. To fail in the matter of purpose is to nullify the election and to lose not essentially salvation, but certainly the inheritance, i.e., that specific inheritance connected with the vocation.

The Old Testament representation of this is Israel. The nation was “an elect nation” for a particular purpose. The whole nation was called according to that purpose. When the body as a whole lost its vocational character it was rejected and sent into exile. The vocation was recovered in a Remnant. This Remnant was a rebuke and example to the whole. When eventually and ultimately Israel the nation forfeited their vocation among the nations by rejecting the very One who was to justify both their election and their existence, they were rejected and lost their place among the nations, as for the last nearly two thousand years.

The Church as the eternally elect body then came in in relation to a far greater and higher purpose than that related to Israel. Let it be emphasized that the existence of the Church is bound up with purpose. Failure here will mean spiritual Babylon, i.e., confusion, bondage, weakness, and frustration. But God reacts in a Remnant – “Overcomers”; and throughout history a thin red line of faithful and true witnesses, individual and corporate, is traceable when the general state has been decadent.

It is very instructive to note the way of the Spirit in His movements to recover this government of purpose. The movements and their features are all so consistent and harmonious with the object.

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April 8

8 APR – The Integration of God’s Purpose

When we look at those parts or that section of Ezekiel’s prophecies which have to do with the existing condition of Israel, we see a people disintegrated, scattered, and disrupted. God’s view of them was revealed in the vision of the valley of dry bones: many very many bones: spread over the valley; unarticulated and uncoordinated: bare, dry, and useless by reason of their dividedness. What a true picture of the state where the vision of God’s all-integrating purpose has been lost! How true are the words we read in Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint [fall apart; go to pieces]”.

The mighty movement of the Spirit in the valley was not just motivated by the desire to have the bones together “bone to its bone” and clothed and covered. It was governed by the purpose of Israel’s election, to be the channel through which after the flesh God’s Son would come. Unity is always in God’s thought to bring Christ in in fullness. To hinder that, all hell is set on the disintegration of the people of God.

The real incentive to union is the recognition that by it the fullness of Christ will come in. This is ‘Ephesians’, and if ‘Ezekiel’ ends with the triumphant shout, “The Lord is there”, it is the effect and result of the vision and apprehension of the Man on the Throne, and God’s purpose concerning Him.

Immediately after the Cross the disciples and the followers of Jesus were very much like the bones in the valley. The metaphor is changed but the effect was the same. “I will smite the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad” (Matt. 26:31). Scattered and peeled! Helpless and shattered! But note the effect of the Spirit’s energies on the Day of Pentecost. Gathered and integrated! Co-ordinated and unified! Clothed and nourished! They were on their feet an army. The integration was truly the effect of the energies of the Spirit, but the great feature of their integration was the vision and power of the Divine purpose concerning Jesus Christ. The book of ‘Acts’ is the book of Purpose energized by the Holy Spirit, and it is the book of concerted action on that basis.

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April 7

7 APR – The Impact of God’s Purpose

The one all-important note which is so manifestly lacking in the Church at this time is the note of authority. This was a recognized and acknowledged feature of the Lord’s presence and ministry when He was here in person. This also was an unmistakable characteristic of the Church in early days. The loss of this spiritual authority has let in many alternatives and substitutes, so that the present system is one of pretense, make-believe, show, striving after effect. The efforts and failures are pathetic.

But what is the essence of authority? It is not forcefulness of expression, neither is it strength of conviction. These and many other things may, or may not, accompany true authority, but they are not authority. The essence of authority is, that what is said or represented carries in its very truth the power of destiny. Sooner or later, that presentation will show itself to be a criterion. People and things will stand or fall according to the attitude taken toward it. In a time of upheaval, shaking, testing and trouble, people and work will stand or collapse, and the cause will be in either case that which God gave. The truth will be vindicated. This is borne out so evidently in Israel’s history. This is what lies at the root of the first three chapters of the ‘Revelation’. This is the explanation of the triumph or tragedy of so much that had its origin in God, and of many Christian lives. Authority is something that will have to be measured up to, you cannot get away from it. In spiritual things it is God. There can never be something of God present for which we shall not have to give an account.

The Holy Spirit always speaks with authority, and when He speaks, destiny is present. As “all authority,” has been given to Jesus, God’s Son, in Heaven and on earth, the Holy Spirit presents and testifies to Him as the Horizon of judgment and destiny. There is impact when Christ is preached in the Holy Spirit. The proof of reality is not in the form of teaching, however orthodox and right. Neither is it in the form of practice and procedure, however correct. Isaiah was told to “declare unto my people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins”, and then was added, “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways” (Isa. 58:1, 2). The truth and reality is in the spiritual impact that brings people face to face with God.

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April 6

6 APR – The Loss of Distinctiveness

From the history of Israel and the history of the Church one thing springs into light and is unmistakably evident, that is that there is no substitute for light once given by God.

Unfaithfulness to light once given by God results inevitably and unavoidably in confusion, weakness, bondage, limitation, and tentativeness.

These are clearly the features of Babylon in Israel’s case, and of the Church’s case in the twentieth century.

Someone has said that

“The Church of the first century was power-conscious.

The Church of the twentieth century is problem-conscious.”

We could not improve on that, but we might paraphrase it by saying that

The Church of the first century was PURPOSE conscious.

The Church of the twentieth century is perplexity conscious.

‘Ezekiel’ is peculiarly the Old Testament book of God’s reaction in judgment to lost distinctiveness of purpose. ‘Revelation’ is its New Testament counterpart, with many similar characteristics in symbolism.

When anything becomes something in itself, turning, in doctrine and practice, into a circle instead of a way and a means, confusion, frustration, and bondage become its characteristics; limitation and powerlessness will mark its existence. It becomes a matter of lost distinctiveness.

That distinctiveness of life and testimony is demanded by God is self-evident in the whole Bible. A word frequently used to express God’s thought as to His people is the word ‘peculiar’.

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April 5

5 APR – The Cross Seeks to Remove Whatever Serves Satan

Why has the Holy Spirit come? Oh! Not that we might have blessings and what we call power and influence and opportunity and service. No, He has come as Representative and Agent of the Christ, who has secured the rights of God in His own Person. To bring about the recognition and realization of the rights in this earth, that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The second thing that comes out of this is that the Holy Spirit always demands the ground of the Cross for His activity, if the glory of God is in view. But then, the Cross registers the removal of all that serves Satan. What was it that served Satan in Cain? Covetousness, personal ambition, jealousy, pride! That worked itself out in the murder of Abel which was an expression of hatred for God. What was it that served Satan in Balaam? Greed, covetousness, world-gain. The Cross registers the removal by destruction of all that served Satan, and for us it is gathered up in one word: SELF.

What a wide word that is – what a comprehensive word! The stronger term is “the flesh”. Some people do not know what you mean when you talk about the “flesh”. They begin to think of positive vices and iniquities of deep dye. But the “flesh” is only another term for “self”. Self is a very subtle thing, a many-sided thing. It includes self-interest, self-glory, self-preservation, self-realization, self-advancement – all those considerations of influence and good-standing and prestige and following, and being understood and spoken well of. The phases of “self” are legion, and they, every one of them, serve Satan.

Moreover, they serve him in this other sense, that they divide the rights of God and usurp the place of God: and therefore, wherever there is the slightest suggestion or insinuation of self, the Glory of God is obscured and the Cross has got to be applied there. The Cross is not applied in the work of God just because God wants us out of it for the sake of having us out of it, to humble, to crush, to break us; no, it has this great end in view – HIS GLORY. The Cross, dear friend, means utter devotion to God’s glory.

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April 4

4 APR – Refusing to Give Satan Any Place

From the very birth of the Lord Jesus, it is known to Satan who He is and the scheme is put into operation to engulf Him in the massacre of a whole multitude of infants. The cruelty of the evil one to murder a mass to get ONE! He is after One – he is not after the crowd.

We have no record of any efforts of the enemy from that time until the Lord steps across the line which runs between His private life and His public life; and then He meets the enemy immediately. And what is the question? “If Thou wilt… worship me” (Matt. 4:9). That is what he is after. It is right out he is betrayed at once; and it is that issue right up to the Cross. “If Thou wilt worship me…” It comes in a multitude of different ways. Satan only wants an acknowledgment, the ascribing to him of some rights in the universe.

But, ah, the Lord never recognized those rights just as Mordecai refused to recognize the right of Haman. This is one of the most beautiful things in the book of Esther. Here is Haman claiming to be somebody: he has gained eminence, and everybody is bowing to him. But Mordecai refuses to recognize any of his glory, and ignores it all. And you remember Haman’s story to his family. ‘I am a great man; I have much goods, many children: but what is the good of it all if this one man will not recognize me?’ (Esther 5:9-13). It is a foreshadowing. There is One who counts more than all the rest, and until He can be captured or get out of the war the enemy’s fullness is divided. That One will not recognize Satan and that One is destined to bring about his doom.

The Lord Jesus met that all the way through, refusing to attribute to Satan one atom of right in this universe. He was out to challenge that, to secure all the rights for God in His own Person, and to come to the Throne Himself with those rights. And when He has done it we see the same thing going on with the Church. It is still the Church’s great issue: the worshippers and the worshipped, and the place or the no-place of the enemy.

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April 3

3 APR – The Two Worships

The worship of the beast is one which has been going on ever since Lucifer secured a following, a reverence from angels in high estate in heaven. When he found it in his own heart to make a bid for the place of the Almighty – to exalt his throne above the clouds, to ascend into the heavens, to be equal with the Most High (Is. 14:13-14) – he managed to gather to himself a company, all with the intent of drawing heaven’s worship away from God to himself; and ever since that lifting up of his heart in that infamous ambition, another worship has been going on. He drew that company with him, the company of angels “who kept not their own principality”, and are “kept in everlasting bonds under darkness” (Jude 6). Then he appeared on the earth, and sought again to usurp the place of God in the worship of His Creation here; and in this he succeeded, and became, by reason of a conquest and the consent of man, “the god of this age”, “the prince of this world”.

From that moment he set up a spiritual system of worship which is perceivable behind the whole record of history. We have the breaking in of this evil element all along the line of worship, wherever and whenever the rights of God are recognized by sacrifice. Immediately Abel recognized the rights of God and erected his altar, slaying his sacrifice and shedding sacrificial blood, in the simplicity of the testimony of faith that here on the earth God has sole rights, there broke in this very thing against that testimony. The murderer came in to withstand and destroy the testimony, with Cain as his instrument, who also set up an altar and made a pretense in his darkened understanding to worship God. But he never got through to God, and that was the very ground upon which the Satanic element of jealousy and pride was churned up within him, and he became, because the Devil had got a purchase upon him, the instrument against the worship of God. The enemy’s scheme is deep laid; he knows what he is doing. Through the other worship he breaks in against the recognition of the Divine Rights, the worship of God; and from Abel onward it is always so.

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