The Wilderness

Hebrews 4:7
We find here, not the Lord Jesus primarily, but a very solemn warning to those to whom the epistle speaks. The question is raised about His people down here, pointed to by Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness; whose difficulties, on the one hand, brought to light their want of faith and power, because the flesh was not judged, and on the other, the correction of the Lord, because they were found practically connected with Satan and not with Himself. Then there is a turn, (ver. 12,) and the soul is cast into heavenly association with Christ, who is there analyzing every thought of the heart, saying, " I will not let a single thought pass." (See ver. 12, 13.)
The question with regard to Israel was about the unity of the kingdom that God had taken up. He went down and took up a nation of slaves, and said, " These are my people." He prepared a tabernacle, and was to be among them. The question at issue was of unity with God's work. It was no wonder when God said, " I am King," that in effect He said also, I will settle all these questions. I will show who I am. I will show Pharaoh who is King of Israel-who this Jehovah is whom he does not know. And He lets Pharaoh go on to show out all the power of Satan. He brings the people, and they come out with a high hand. But the sea is in the way, and stops them. Well, whose are they? He will now see whether the people know where their center is, and whether their hearts could really answer Pihahiroth (i.e., the opening of liberty) to all the difficulties.. Then He traces their path-the water opens-a wall on either side for them. Israel goes down into the bottom of the sea, and their enemies pursue after them. The waters that stood on either side for Israel come together irresistibly upon Egypt, and Egypt is destroyed. But God and Israel are on the other side.
God, and God alone, was able to bring them through. He could have taken them into the land in a few days. But how many years did it take them to get to Canaan? Very many. But in the long wilderness path they learned to have to do with God alone. He would have the question put home to the people, whether they were the people of the living God-whether they had any spring in themselves, or whether all was flowing from Him. There was no spring in one of them. There might be a fullness of blessing into which God led Israel in the land of Canaan; but, as far as they were concerned, they were to prove there was not an Israelite that got one single drop of water as flowing from himself: God, and God alone, was able to supply them. He takes them through the wilderness.
It was the place of blessing for them: and it was the wisest place; because He could there make them all feel, not only that God could people Canaan, but that He was occupying Himself individually with them. And hence, they must have done with circumstances, and be satisfied with God, and nothing but God.
God took them up, and revealed to them certain types and shadows in connection with what He was doing for them, and what they were-the whole substance of which has been accomplished now. Responsibility in connection with the substance may have been put into man's hand, and man failed in it; still, God began with the truth that Christ is risen and set down at God's right hand. Responsibility thus came in, that everything to be done on the earth should be done in the light of the tabernacle which God had pitched.
The question which began on the day of Pentecost, and has continued through the 1800 years since, and in this our day cannot be evaded, and cannot be limited so as to shut out the bearing of it on individuals, is a question of real unity with the thing that God has wrought-a question of vital and also practical fellowship with Him.
From the moment the glory of God has been shown to me, until I see His face in glory, the question is still of practical fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ-a fellowship growing out of vital union with Him who is alive from the dead. This question I cannot evade in any one thing, circumstance, or action! All must have reference to that practical unity.
Having settled the whole question about the clearing of His people from all that was against them-their acceptance before God, and the character of that acceptance, He settles we are all to be in the wilderness. Christ is, in patience, sitting at the right hand of God; but you and I are in the wilderness.
But because we are enabled to say that the judgment of all sin is behind Us, and enabled to see that we are dead with Christ, have we nothing to do practically with dying daily? You are not taken out of your body: the law of sin is in your members. The question is, How far are we, practically, through faith, able to live as those that have died and are risen? How far can we be vessels of this individually? The grace of Christ has extended to us just where we were. Are we, then, vessels in whom the power of faith has made good all the blessings in Christ Jesus-vessels in whom He can work with this practical conformity to His life, death, and resurrection, in this wilderness? If His life had not been brought in, there never could have been this question; it never could have taken this shape. But in the wilderness, where we are, it is realized.
When the last dispensation has been brought in, and, spite of blessing, it has been proved that man can hold nothing, but is like melted gold poured into a vessel unfit to hold it, the precious weight of the metal smashing it into shivers; when it has been proved that man has entirely failed, the world got its power, and Satan the direction of things here below, all our rest, all our repose must be found in the simple recognition of the entire failure of man and the unfailingness of God.
But why has the wilderness this power over the Christian?
We have got Satan behind, as to judgment, it is clear. But then what a long experience has he had of the heart of man! How skilled he is in seeing the suitability of the things he has set up I He has seen what man's heart was beguiled by-how skilled he is in using all that!
But what is the secret of his power with regard to us? What leaves us exposed to feel all the weariness of the wilderness-one foot dragging behind the other, scarcely able to drag up our ankles after us? The secret is just what came out with Israel. It had to learn itself in the wilderness, and we have to learn ourselves there. But what gives freshness to the heart in the recognition of all failure? The heart having individually to do with Christ, what comes out here is, the heart having to do with Christ, who can read to us individually what is in us, and be the applier to us individually of the remedy? What is to enable the saint to have in the wilderness a fresh heart and never to be puzzled? Verses 12 and 13 of this chapter give the answer. The practical experience of the truth presented may differ very much; for it must be different in those who instead of learning by failure-by following their own hearts in their walk through the wilderness follow this and that vanity because their hearts are not connected with God-and those who do turn to Jesus and follow Him always! Peter's experience was different from Paul's, Abraham's from Jacob's. But Abraham had far less knowledge of self than Jacob. Abraham took God's word for it and went on with Him. He trusted God and had clean done with himself. Jacob had to realize the force of these two verses.
" For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." But if He knows everything in me, and knows it by contrast to what He, the perfect Son of man is, I do not want to hide my face as to the evil in me. I do not need to get a bit of Peter's ways or a bit of Jacob's ways coming out from me.
Christ suffered as my Substitute once, and received at the hand of God the whole judgment due to me. That Christ who has blessed me is the person with whom I have got to do and a part of whose glory is set forth in these verses. The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword. The Son of man with His sword in His mouth, as presented to us in the Revelation, is the Person with whom you and I have to do. I do not want to know myself as Jacob did. I do not want to detect a bit of Peter in myself. If I put myself in His hand and read all down what He knows of me-knows of me as I am in contrast with Himself-I hide my face in Him for He knows it all.
Have we then cultivated thoughts, not about ourselves, but about acquaintance with the heart-searching Son of man in heaven, who sees right down to the very bottom-the very thoughts and intents of your soul, and who sees and divides between them? Has your soul been before Him that He may discover the first buddings of everything-that He may put His hand in and stop them? Some deceive themselves by the intentions of their own hearts; others by their thoughts. His eye goes right down and discovers all. How far in any soul; (not of a sinner, for His priesthood has not to do with such;} but how far does He find in us that we are vessels in whom the Spirit of God abiding, there is this power of His death through the knowledge of His resurrection? His eye conies right down. He is never deceived. That is the first element to my own soul of having a fresh heart in the midst of apostasy in the wilderness. If there were a corner in my heart-the least corner-that Christ had not searched and probed-if there were the least atom undetected by Him, I am undone. I could have no peace. Would I like to hide anything from Christ? If it is Christ I have got to deal with, would I like to blind Christ? No! I would not! In desperate illness to blind a physician would be death! I cannot afford to blind Christ to my state, if I could do so. Would I not like him to know everything-every intention, every thought in me, down to the bottom, that He, who alone can, may bring in the remedy?
In my practical walk through the wilderness, I would rather have Christ searching out my weakness-pointing out what has to be corrected -than friends praising me for what is not praiseworthy before God Who am I; that He should search me out, and give me to know where the springs of God should flow into me-should give me to see just where there is anything that chokes the inflowing? Who are we, that God should deal with us after such sort? God wants there to be more freshness in us. You cannot have it if you do not understand, not merely that man has utterly failed in the responsibility that has been put into his hand, but that as Christ looks at us, individually, He says, I cannot put any confidence here. It may be very fair before man, but will not do for God-as a seeming fair parchment-but all shriveled when you want to use it. We must have done with self.
Just see practically the difference of a soul that is in that state before Christ, and knows that the Christ, who has apprehended it for the glory, has marked everything for us in connection with that glory: it will never stand for a moment questioning the sufficiency of His work. Mark, too, the effect upon a soul that has thus individually to do with Christ. It is on earth-Christ is in heaven. True, but it has got to do with Him who is the antagonist of Satan, and so get practically under another power.
Christ is above, reading everything for you; in everything He lets all the affections of His heart flow out upon you in the difficulties of the place where you are-and we do not give up, for we have a great High Priest, passed into heaven, touched with the feeling of our infirmities!
But what is the real cause of the little going forward in unearthliness? Why has there been any turning back? Why has there not been a going on in that holy, perfect Nazariteship? Why am I practically less heavenly than I was? I believe the answer to be this: The heart not abiding in the light of the searching eye of Christ in heaven. Making its experience down here, instead of reading the whole volume in the light of Christ: being before God in everything. There is no power of blessing but what begins with Christ, and goes on with Christ.
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