If there be one lack in souls at the present time more marked than another, it is feebleness of apprehension as to these two great points.
The quietness of communion is but little known, not to say enjoyed, in this busy active day. How truly the moment speaks loudly of unrest and unreality; and how little is known even among the saints of that deep, personal, unexpressed joy in Christ.
The satisfaction of the heart in the personal nearness of the Lord, the being in His company for the simple joy of it, is true communion; thus it is we have common mind with Him, which is the meaning of communion. When this is the case, we know the mind of our Lord and Master, and this it is which qualifies us for every service as Christ's confidential servants: it is well to bear in mind that the amount of our service or the laboriousness of our work do not of themselves constitute us confidential servants.
There is a very close alliance, a very intimate connection, between the two attitudes of soul we are considering; in fact, they wait the one on the other. It is very blessed to see the producing and maintaining power, of hearing and following Christ. In a word, it is Christ. He and He alone is the blessed source and spring of all that has its rise and satisfaction in Himself. To be a good listener, one must be both free and at rest. My reader, are you? The blessed Son, ever the Father's delight, ever in the bosom of the Father, came into a world of slavery and sorrow, to bring both liberty to the captives and opening of the prison to those that were bound, as well as relief of conscience and rest of heart to every weary soul: His work and person alone can give freedom and rest. It is mournful to see how little of either exists around us; the disquietude of the age infects the saints, not only in the things that relate to this life, but even in their relationships with God they have not the fixed, settled peace which cannot be moved.
With many at the present time it is as it were but the dawn of union, the full day in soul consciousness not having yet come; with them it is like "the morning spread upon the mountains," and hence there is but little if any repose; unsatisfied longings, ardent desires as yet unmet, abound in many a heart, but oh, how one longs to see His own people possessing conscious knowledge of union with Christ glorified in the place where He is; this alone can impart rest of heart, and detach from earth and its things! Thus alone it is that the soul listens, absorbed with Him who is its rest. The ear once engaged with other sounds now does homage at His feet, and waits upon His words, knowing how to interpret all the tones of His voice, and to treasure them up in the soul. What could be more blessed than an ear at leisure from self and its surroundings to wait on the word of Jesus? Then it is that we sit down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit is sweet to our taste. Is not this the house of wine where He delights to entertain His own, during the weary hours of this far-spent night? It is wonderful how little any of us know what real solitude with God is. And may I not ask, How is it possible to grow in personal acquaintance with Christ, if the solitude of His company is not sought after and cultivated by His saints? I hope I may not be understood by any as undervaluing the outward means of instruction and soul refreshment which abound on every hand; nothing could be more distant from my thoughts; but I do say that none of these by themselves, nor all of them together, can repair the loss of meditative solitude with God. Another has said, "Never less alone than when alone;" but, alas! how little impress of this is left on any of us.
It is interesting to see this illustrated in the history of Elijah; remarkable servant of God though he was, it is clear that his life inwardly was not sustained in proportion to his outward testimony. With him the fire, wind, and earthquake were everything; and when outward testimony excited the malignity of the enemy, as is usual, his faith was not equal to the pressure. But mark the blessed tender way of Jehovah with His poor servant.
1st. He is called to go and stand before the Lord, thus proving that solitude is useless unless it be with God. We may be even as he was, under a juniper tree, or in a cave (1 Kings 19:4, 9), but that is only the solitude of disappointed nature; there is neither liberty, nor rest, nor listening in that. Oh, no, it must be with God. "Go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord."
2nd. The demands of nature must not be yielded to. This is typified by the prophet's fasting forty days and forty nights; that which had been supplied to him was the providing of Jehovah's hand - even a "cake baken" and "a cruse of water," supplies outside nature, in the strength of which all its claims could be set aside.
3rd. The consequence of the two former, the prophet listens - he hears "a still small voice;" and thus receives communications and commissions which previously would have been unintelligible to him.
Following seems to come in as a consequence of what we have had before us: "My sheep hear my voice . . . and they follow me." As it is the Shepherd's voice that is heard and known by the sheep, so it is the Shepherd Himself they follow; He it is who has gone before. In the passage quoted from John 10 we find the blessed Lord, scorned and reproached, leaving the ancient fold of Judaism, and thus going before His sheep, the security to all His own that it was the true way, as well as the authority for the sheep following Him come what might, their hiding-place from danger, and their safe conduct for the way.
It is very blessed to see how it is the knowing His voice here (vv. 4, 5), not that they know all the false voices of strangers, but their security is in knowing His voice, and they likewise follow as they know it. My reader, has your heart found one whom you are now following? Is this your one object day by day? It is very blessed to be allowed to serve, but many a one serves in this day who is not following. Oh for more distinct going forth from all around to follow a rejected Lord and Master, and to esteem it our holiest joy to tread the path He has walked in, rough it may be, but trodden by Himself, who has left His own mark upon every rose and every thorn.
"A little while, He'll come again!
Let us the precious hours redeem;
Our only grief to give Him pain,
Our joy to serve and follow Him."
W. T. Turpin.
It is only the heavenly man who has died with Christ that disentangles himself from all that is of Egypt. J. N. Darby.