Before the Lord goes to the cross to suffer He went up to the mount to be transfigured. Peter, being an eye-witness of His glory, says, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty." Moses and Elias appeared in glory with Him, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. Peter, James, and John had the privilege of beholding that scene of unsurpassed brightness and glory. Moses represented those who have died in Christ, and Elias those who are alive and changed at the rapture.
Peter was so entranced with the sight, that he said to the Lord, "Let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias." It was then that the Father's jealousy for the glory of His beloved Son is seen, "This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him." Moses and Elias being taken away, the disciples saw no man any more save Jesus only. Blessed moment, and blessed sight!
When they came down from the mount what a different scene awaited them! A father had brought his son possessed with a demon to the disciples, but they were utterly powerless to meet the power of the devil. The heart-broken father came at last to the Lord with the child: "and Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour."
The disciples evidently wondered at their own powerlessness, and asked the Lord in astonishment, "Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit," He adds, "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
Enjoyment is one thing, but power is quite another. It has been truly remarked, that "enjoyment is for heaven, but power is for earth." There is no opposition in heaven: everything there is favourable to the new life we possess in the Spirit. As the Spirit leads our souls into the enjoyment of our heavenly portion in Christ, our souls are sometimes outside ourselves and seen things. But the moment we go out into the world we find ourselves in a contrary element. We find the whole array of Satan's power is against us to hinder our standing for Christ. The moment we are for Christ here, we must expect opposition. And nothing but divine power can enable us to stand against the adversary.
It is most important to see, and it needs more than ever to be pressed upon us, that if we are to stand for Christ against the whole array of spiritual wickedness, and so be overcomers, we must be in the moral state indicated by "prayer and fasting." High-sounding words will not do if the moral state is lacking. People expect us to be in some measure in the power of what we profess. If we are not, Satan will get the advantage of us, and the very words we speak, instead of coming with power and freshness to those who listen, will only be thrown back with utter contempt at ourselves.
Prayer is the expression of entire dependence on God. Fasting indicates the absolute refusal of ourselves and all human gratifications. Practically the first man is completely set aside, and we walk in simple dependence on God alone. This will mean death to myself as a man here in every way. Faith connects our souls with another scene altogether, where the first man has no place. Faith closes its eyes to all that is visible; and then, like Moses, we shall endure "as seeing Him who is invisible." At the same time it will open out a scene invisible to the natural eye: "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
We have a beautiful example of prayer and fasting in 2 Chron. 20 with Jehoshaphat. In the eighteenth chapter we find he had joined in an alliance with the king of Israel, who had gone to war with Syria. God mercifully interposed, and saved the life of His poor failing servant. Afterwards God sent one of His servants to rebuke Jehoshaphat. "And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?" What plain and direct speaking to the most exalted person in Judah! But God saw it was needful, and therefore He found a servant who would dare to thrust this arrow into Jehoshaphat's conscience. The effect was that he judged himself, and was humbled before the Lord, as the next chapter clearly shows. A great company came up against him, if possible to destroy him and all Judah. Instead of betaking himself to human means to effect an escape, "Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord." His prayer is most touching, and indicates a broken and dependent spirit. He acknowledges God's power as supreme over all, that none was able to withstand him, and adds, "We have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee." He not only acknowledges his own utter helplessness, but his want of wisdom also to direct. He is completely shut up to God. Happy state! He is at his wits' end. It was his extremity in every sense of the word; but it was God's opportunity for displaying Himself on his behalf. God first of all delivers His people from all fear by assuring them through the lips of His servant the prophet, "Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you." (2 Chron. 20:17.)
The fullest confidence in the living God was produced as the result of this message. Perfect peace and solid rest of heart were the result of confidence in God, whose power they had so humbly invoked, and on whose arm of almighty strength the victory depended. In quietness and in confidence they found their strength. They were to be still, and to know that Jehovah was God. As the result of victory being assured they were in the spirit of victors, and could sing in triumph before the victory was obtained. Man disappears, and God alone filled the vision of their souls.
How like this was to Paul and Silas in the Philippian prison where they were suffering for Christ's sake, with backs bleeding, and feet fastened to the stocks. No enviable position, surely! In the midst of all their sufferings they prayed and sang praises unto God. There was no murmuring or complaining! They had been forbidden to preach in Asia. The Spirit did not suffer them to go into Bithynia. Afterwards they are found in Troas, where Paul had a vision, to which he responded and went to Macedonia, where he found a company of praying women, to whom he spake the word. A woman followed them through Philippi, having an unclean spirit, saying, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation." Paul, being grieved, commanded the unclean spirit to come out of her. The populace was roused, and Paul and Silas thrust into prison. What deep exercise all this would be to God's servants! The very prison is lit up with glory. They did not think of themselves, but turned to God in prayer, and He filled their souls with joy and their lips with praises.
What a mighty victory was afterwards obtained! The prison walls were shaken, and the iron doors opened, the bands of the prisoners unloosed, and the gaoler and his whole household were delivered from the power of the devil, and brought into the liberty and joy of the gospel. The assembly was thus formed at Philippi, and a bright testimony for Christ was started as the result of Paul's faithfulness and uncompromising testimony for his Master. Where Paul had the greatest suffering, there he had the greatest joy. Ever afterwards the Philippian assembly was a great comfort to his heart.
If we could only be still and let God act for us, what wonders He would work in us and by us! We often forget that God has as much to do in us as by us. He is working in us for His good pleasure, that He might manifest Christ through us. If we are not prepared to accept suffering and sorrow and shame, how can Christ be seen in us? This every saint who walks with God must learn. It is most humbling, no doubt, to us, because it makes nothing of us, and very few are content to be nothing. But if the meek and lowly spirit of Christ is to be seen in us, it must be so. Nothing can please God more than to see either an individual or a company displaying the graces of Christ here.
May we learn more and more what it is to take the place of weakness and dependence, and to walk in the entire refusal of ourselves, so as to be superior to every contrary element in this world. "God is for us." "His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him." P. W.