The Man of God

Lecture 1.

1 Kings 16:29 — 17:1.

I have just read these closing verses in the sixteenth chapter, beloved friends, in order that we may have before us in some measure the times in which Elijah stood forth. My desire is, if the Lord will, in this, or a lecture or so, to look at what, in the most striking features, the man of God is. We find, in the times of Israel, that word "man of God" coming up repeatedly in connection with Elijah and Elisha. The title, while actually found, as the character itself is prominently brought out, in times of failure, is still really applicable to all the Lord's people, as what they are all, I may say, positionally, and as purchased by the blood of Christ. They are surely God's men; but the "man of God" is the title here of one who is practically that, — one whose practical character answers to his position.

We have, in a very striking way, in the second epistle to Timothy, the man of God spoken of as the one for whom, in a sense, all Scripture was written, and whom alone it would profit as it ought; and so it becomes a very serious thing with us whether we have that character. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 2:16-17.)

There you find that Scripture only has its proper effect on the man of God; and though, of course, no child of God is shut out, and it is written for all in this sense, that all may be and should be such, yet of necessity the profit of it is limited to those who have, in a measure at least, the character of the man of God, — God's man; of those who stand out for Him — those who are manifestly and practically His.

The character naturally becomes only the more distinct as the times are trying. Even in the apostle's time it could be said, "All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." (Phil. 2:21.) Just in proportion as that is so, of course it makes more striking the reality of one who is a man of God; it makes him shine out in the darkness; as it is said of John the Baptist, who in his day took up Elijah's mission: "He was a burning and a shining light," — not merely a shining light, mark, as the dead and decaying wood may shine, but a burning light as well. And it is a great point to understand, that while, of course, the darkness is not of God, — surely it is not! — yet, at the same time, it is used of God to make His light more apparent. We should accustom ourselves to think of it in that way; not excusing the evil, or thinking lightly of it, but as certainly not sinking down under it, or being controlled by it. For God's lights, as such, are made for the darkness, which does not hide or put them out, but manifests them. Such a light, in the very darkest days in Israel, was Elijah the Tishbite.

In the chapters before this, how little one seems to find one's way amid the discordant shapes of evil that fill the page, where the son is but spiritually the "brother of his father," as Ahab's name imports, and that which is born of the flesh is only flesh again. It is so beautiful that you get God at once brought into the scene when Elijah steps into it. Then, while there is still darkness all around, it is not unrelieved darkness any more. If you consider, you will see how largely God's people have lived in such times as these; how from the very beginning of all dispensations that which was intrusted to man's care he failed in, and the ruin of what was set up became a settled thing. If you take Israel, God says of their course in the wilderness, "Ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them; and I will carry you away beyond Babylon." (Acts 7:43.) The failure in the wilderness is there connected with the Babylonish captivity, though a great number of years intervened. The whole thing failed there, and Babylon was the necessary result of the failure in the wilderness.

Take, again, the Church, before the apostles had passed off the scene. It was the mercy of God that they had not passed away before we get His judgment through them of the condition of things. One of them can tell us, "It is the last time; and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." (1 John 2:18.) Another, "The mystery of iniquity doth already work" (2 Thess. 2:7); and a certain hindrance has only to be removed for the man of sin to be fully manifested. Look into the writings of those called "fathers," but a generation or so after the apostles. There was a sudden dropping down into the very depths of darkness, we may say, at once. From that time to this, nearly eighteen hundred years, has been a time in which God's people have had to walk with God alone. It is what we ought always to do, of course, but still more does a time of general departure call on those who would be overcomers to walk alone with Him. If the stream be adverse, we need more spiritual energy, that is all.

If you compare the second epistle of Peter, the first chapter, with the first chapter of the first epistle, you will find such a difference. There is a call in the second for greater energy; because God does not leave us to the influences of every kind about us. He does not fail, if man does. Yet it is so astonishing that we should be ready almost to credit Him with failure, because we fail. And at a time of general failure, as if delivered up to it, we claim it as even a sort of humility, not only not to pretend to be Pauls, but even to take his path at all.

Yet such as he were men of like passions with ourselves; and we, as they, are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. The Spirit of God was no more in them than in us; because if the Spirit of God is in us, it has no measure from God. You find everybody almost imagining that there is a "measure of the Spirit," whereas there is not, in that sense, a measure of it at all. That word which the apostle gives in the epistle to the Ephesians, "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" (v. 18.), is to all Christians. If we were filled with the Spirit, should we be any thing less than men of God? Elijah had a special mission, of course, and so had Paul; but still, as to spiritual character, should we be any other than even these? If the night is dark, will not even the faintest light be brighter?

The times in Israel were not times in which we should look for such a light as Elijah the Tishbite; it Was, exactly, God's time. God delights in showing, in the very midst of it all, that He is quite as sufficient for the darkest times as for the brightest. Elijah's name shows where his strength was. "My mighty One is Jehovah" is its full significance. "Eli" means "my God," but yet also "my strength," or "my mighty One." It is the word used by the Lord upon the cross, — "Eli, Eli," — "My God, My God;" but the very force of it there is, that He is appealing to One who has got abundant power (if it were only a question of power,) to bring Him out of all the difficulty in a moment; instead of which, the mighty One, His strength, forsakes Him. So here, it is "Jehovah is My mighty One," and it is the power of God we see in Elijah, — a power as available for you and me as for him.

"Tishbite" is said by some to mean "the converter," — the one in whom there was power to turn men from the way in which they were unto Himself, and who sought to bring a nation back to God. In his own lifetime there might seem to be little apparent success in that; even so there is the lesson for us. For while God never allows His Word to fall fruitless to the ground, and we may surely trust Him for that, on this very account we may leave success to Him, — not indifferent, but still not daunted, if it do not much appear; and anxious, first of all, that the seed and sowing should be to His mind, rather than to see results which perhaps the day of manifestation will alone disclose.

That is what God would have before us: success is in His own hands, and God is content sometimes to work in a way to us inscrutable. Look at the Lord's life: how many apparently were converted? — a few disciples gather in an upper room after His resurrection. There was quite a number at Pentecost, and a mightier work; but as you go on, you find no such large success, even in apostolic hands, as you would expect perhaps from the gospel. Very various indeed it is: in many places to which the apostle Paul went, instead of having, what people expect now from a few weeks' revival-meetings, converts by the score, very often but a few, so far as we can see. And only in a few places at first was there large response. In an exceptional one, you find the Lord saying, "I have much people in this city;" but in no wise was that the rule. And the Lord, in His own parable of the mustard-seed, indicates that the growth of the little gospel-seed into the "tree" was as little likely a result as it argued little for Christianity. Alas! the great spread of this took place in proportion to its adulteration; and as it became popular, so it became corrupt.

Why do I speak of this? Because if we make success our object, it will become a snare to us. We shall get our eyes upon the results, and by this, test our work untruly. For if that were the test, what about His who said, "I have labored in vain: I have spent My strength for naught!" "Yet surely," was His confidence, "My judgment is with the Lord, and My work with My God." God, on the other hand, would have us look, in the most careful way possible, at walk and work and life, and as to what comes of it, — the issue of it all, — leave that to be made manifest in the day fast approaching, which shall make every thing manifest. Are you content to leave it to that? Care for souls and love to them is of course another thing. God forbid that I should say one word which should make that a matter of little moment! but beware of what on every side people are doing; and beware of thinking that quantity, with God, will atone for quality.

Now with Elijah, while God honored the man in the most remarkable way, as you know, — put Himself along with him, authenticated his word, and gave the fire from heaven which consumed the sacrifice, — yet there seemed no adequate result. Did the nation turn to God? "Hear me," Elijah prays, — "Hear me, O Lord! hear me! that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God, and that Thou hast turned their hearts back again." (1 Kings 18:37.) In the very next chapter, he is fleeing from the face of Jezebel, because she had said, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." (1 Kings 19:2.) There you find, perhaps, how the ill-success of his mission affected one like Elijah. When he looked at that, he was asking, "Would God I might die!" and sank down in discouragement. There he was, just the man that was not going to die, — just the man who, as you know, was taken straight into heaven without seeing death at all, vanquished by the apparent want of success, after all this wonderful display of power. Is this not to us a most wholesome warning not to look at the success so much as at the being with God which will insure success? If we are to wait for the success — for the end — in order to see what the thing is we do, is it not manifest that we must do it in the dark in the meantime, as to whether it be of God or not? Yet only as knowing this can we do it in communion with Him. What comes of it is God's account, not ours. We need not be afraid that His purpose will not be fulfilled, or that which is of Him not prosper.

Now let us look at Elijah in the attitude expressed here in a few words. "Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, 'As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word.'" (1 Kings 17) He stood before the living God: God was for him that — the living God. That is the first thing. "As the Lord God of Israel liveth," he says. He can find no way of expressing assurance equal to that. It was the surest thing he knew, the most vividly realized, that the God of Israel lived. And that is just the thing that we want to realize on the way down here. The living God is what we want in the midst of scenes like this; in the midst of all so full of life and activity, the life around and about, brushing us on every side, how we do want to realize the living God!

I know, when you look at Elijah's life, you may say, "Certainly God did manifest Himself to Elijah in a marvelous, miraculous way, which we do not see at all now. To only some is it given to work in that way with God. We cannot see these things now." Yet God is the same living God; and we may be sure of this, that while it is true we do not realize what Elijah did, the failure is clearly our failure, and not God's. I do not mean to say there are what people call miracles in the self-same way now; that is not exactly what I am speaking of. We do not expect fire to fall from heaven, or any thing of that sort, very likely; but while all this is true, as we see how the draught of fishes could bring the living God home to a soul ready for the announcement, so we may see, and should be prepared to see, Him acting in every little event of our lives. We only need to look: just as with those people who are not prepared to find great things in the Word, so are never able to find great things in its The open eye is faith. It is the new sense of the child of God, and more certain than any other. In proportion as this is in exercise will the Word be permeated by a living Presence. "Quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," it will bring us under the eyes of "Him with whom we have to do."

So with God's presence about us. The earth is still full of Him. What has drawn a vail over His presence? Really, it is unbelief, — that is all. Unbelief! I grant you that vail is perfectly impenetrable unless the Word has approved itself to us as His revelation in the way we have spoken of. But then creation becomes, from mere materialism, spiritualized and transfigured. Our own history becomes the story of an omnipotent love, under which "all things work together for good to them that love God." He counts the very hairs of our head, goes beyond all our thought and care for ourselves, and fills our loneliest moments with His presence.

It is only that which will make our lives at all what they ought to be; it is only that which will redeem them, so to speak, from the littleness and meanness and unimportance otherwise attaching to them. The meanest life in His presence ceases to be drudgery, and becomes ennobled; the noblest without it, what is it but utter vanity?

You must not imagine that Elijah's life was made up of miracles. How small a part of it these miracles were! And when he stands forth here to answer for the living God, we do not find that the faith he manifested had been nurtured upon miracles. It is not God's way. Those who believed in Christ's name when they saw the miracles He did were not those in whom He confided. It is when we have faith in His presence and nearness that He will respond to the faith we have. It would be merely tempting God to want Him to show Himself in this wonderful way just to prove He was with us. To question is to tempt Him. He is near us, and we ought to know it; and when we realize that, then we may see, perhaps, what to unaccustomed eyes may look not unlike miracle even in the present matter-of-fact day.

But again, to Elijah, the living God was not merely his God: He was the God of Israel. That is a beautiful thing, quite characteristic of the man of God. Israel were God's people. He was not standing before Israel, remember; he stood before the Lord God of Israel, not before Israel. But Israel was something to him, because his God was Israel's God; and because the Lord God was the Lord God of Israel, therefore Israel was in his thought connected with the Lord God for whom he spoke.

Now, that is of immense moment to us, to whom God has revealed the mystery of His Church. We may easily have the Church before us, and be monopolized with the thought of the Church in such a way as really to take us out of the presence of God. What is the Church without the God of the Church? We may easily be making much of the Christian and leaving out the God of the Christian, and leaving out all that gives Christianity or Christians the least importance.

On the other hand, let us understand that to stand before the God of Israel implies this, that we are linked in heart with what is God's cause in the world. "Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it," — not for a fraction of it, even the most intelligent, — aye, or the most devoted. Every one of the tribes had its name upon the high-priest's breast-plate; and even so all His saints are upon Christ's heart now. Can we be God's men and yet not in active earnest sympathy with that with which His heart so intimately concerns itself? Surely it is impossible. "I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ," says the apostle," for His body's sake, which is the Church."

Thus, while God, who forgets not the smallest in His care for the greatest, nor one of His people in His concern for the rest, is to be for us personally and intimately ours, at the same time, He is to be the Lord God of Israel to us, and we are to stand before Him as such. Now, this standing before Him, what does it mean? It is not an expression of confidence — there is abundant confidence you see at once — or of rest, or of peace. Too often we make that the whole thing. He stands before the Lord God of Israel. This is the attitude of service. He is waiting, ready at His bidding. Not merely walking before Him; not running about, surely, with the restless hurry of many, too busy with His service to listen to His word. "Standing" is waiting to have His will expressed. We stand before the Lord God when we are waiting for Him to direct us, and do not move without His guidance. There may be much more standing than moving even, no doubt. If you take Elijah's life, how much more of standing, or waiting, or being alone with God, than there was of acting for Him; but the acting for Him, in consequence, came just at the right time. So should we be ready to serve, not merely occupied with the service, much less hurrying about, as if to be doing was the whole matter, but to be in His path, to be doing His will, conscious that all else is worse than idleness.

Now notice how God identifies Himself with the men who stand before Him in this way. "As the Lord God of Israel liveth before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word." What a bold thing to say! Of course, Elijah did not mean to assert that because of his word the Lord would do these things. It was not that the Lord was going to accomplish Elijah's will, but that Elijah was accomplishing the Lord's. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets. … The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:7-8.) The prophet and the man of God are nearly identical. Would He keep back any thing from those who stood before Him, seeking to be servants of His will and toward the people of His choice? What a wonderful place that is to be in! For God to identify Himself so with one, not to be ashamed of him, as it is said in the eleventh of Hebrews of those old worthies; not ashamed to identify Himself with, and uphold before the face of the world, the word of a poor, untitled man, but to whom His word and will were all. Thus was it with Elijah, and so he became linked with the fulfillment of the purposes of One to whom the universe is but the scene of the display of a glory which transcends it still.

Now, that is the character of the man of God. Do we know what it is to have the living God before our eyes in this kind of way? Do we know what it is to be able to see, not only His actings in our lives, but what He is doing in the world, and toward His people, because we are with Him and therefore have His mind? Do we know what it is, as sons of God, to be His servants, working with the zeal and intelligence of those who both know the Father's will and know the Father?

Of course, we must be sons before we are servants; but, being sons, do not let us imagine that this is every thing! People put service in the wrong place often. They are serving before they are sons, or before they are conscious of being sons; and slipping, therefore, into that hired service for which God has no place. On the other hand, it is surely the right thing when sonship ripens into service, and the full reality of sonship can hardly be enjoyed when this is not so.

Even so, rest from labor develops into rest in labor, or it is not the full rest Christ gives. Rest for the conscience is attained when we have known that the work of Christ is what God alone accepts, and has accepted, as justifying us before Him. Therefore He gives rest. "Come unto Me all ye that labor, and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28.) Does He stop there? Is that all? No; "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (v. 29.) That is the only way in which rest in the full sense is attainable. It is rest, not apprehended by the conscience merely, but laid hold of by the heart; rest from all restlessness, — perfect and complete repose.

But notice, it is His yoke and His burden. It is not a yoke of our own making or imposing. It is not setting ourselves to so much work for Him. It is another thing to take Christ's yoke and His burden, and learn of Him, the Doer of the Father's will, and whose meat and drink it was to do it. In Him, the true Son was the perfect servant. Have we apprehended that because we are sons, from the very nature of the child's relation to the father, we are necessarily and always servants? The child is never released from it, as a mere ordinary servant may be. His very relationship makes him a servant to his father. A servant of love, no doubt, and thus completely one.

Our service, from first to last, is to have His Word to justify it. Our own wills religiously are no more really right than irreligiously. God has one path for us to walk in, one work at any moment for us to be about. While the Word guides, it must be a living guidance — guided by His eye.

The Lord grant it to us, for His name's sake.

Lecture 2.

His discipline. 1 Kings 17:2-9.

Now we have, from the second verse of the chapter, the Lord's discipline of His servant. We have his character in the first verse, — what he was, how he stood before the living God, the God of Israel. We see him in the presence of God's enemies with His word; one of those who had learned His mind, and therefore who could be used as Jehovah's mouth. He is now called away into the wilderness, himself to be disciplined; to learn some needed lessons under God's hand.

Discipline is needed by us from the first moment of our lives until the last. The discipline of the Father is ours because we are children. And the discipline of the Lord is ours too in the character of servants; for He has as much to do in shaping the instruments He uses as He has by them when they are shaped.

That discipline of the Lord never ceases; but still there are special seasons of it, and a special season we have here in Elijah's life. He has scarcely stood forth publicly before the world before the Lord takes him away again, apart by himself. No doubt it was not a new thing for Elijah to be alone with God; but there are yet some new features in his present isolation. He is bidden to turn eastward and hide himself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. You know what "Jordan" means, — the great typical river of death. And "Cherith" means "cutting off." The Lord brings him to that significant place, and there makes him drink of the brook, sustained by the ravens, which feed him there.

We have to take these illustrative names to help our understanding of the Lord's dealings here. They show us Cherith as the prophet's Mara, where he had to drink in, as it were, the death from which as judgment he escapes. Miraculously sustained himself, he learns for himself "the terrors of the Lord," and how sin has wrecked the first creation. And it is a lesson we have to learn. We have to pass through the world, knowing, as far as outward circumstances go, no exemption from the common lot of men. God would not sever us from it. His own Son has come down into the world, as we know, in order to go through it Himself; the One who was ever pleasing to the Father, and had no need of discipline, and could not possibly have to say to judgment except as bearing it vicariously on the cross. Yet, in His grace, He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and passed through all the trials and troubles proper to man. Free from the callousness which sin engenders in us, He entered into them in a way we can little realize. "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses." His mere presence in the world was enough to make Him a "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." It did not need that He should personally be subject to it: it was enough for Him to be in the world to realize what the world was. He had come from God and went to God, and He was with God all the way through. That was sufficient to make Him pre-eminently a Man of sorrows, just because He was not a man like us. How little of the misery around have our hearts room for! How even familiarity with it deadens our sense of it! And how our own personal sorrows absorb and abstract us from those around! Think of One all eye, all ear, all heart, for all of this. The Lord knew it divinely, and felt every thing.

Personally, however, He gave Himself up to that which sin has made our condition. His probation was not in Eden, but a wilderness; nor did He use His miraculous power to relieve His hunger there. He had come into the world only to do God's will in it, and His hunger was no motive to act, when that will was not expressed. In His answer to Satan, He just takes the ground of man, but perfect man: — "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

And the word of God, whatever trial were involved, whatever suffering it called for, that word was to Him meat and drink. He lived by it. It ought to be that to us. The bare fact of having the word of God to fulfill, whatever it call for ought to be enough, surely, to sustain us. The bare fact of being in His path ought to be enough, as we realize it, to furnish us with the endurance and faith needed for it.

Thus, then, the Lord passes Elijah through the suffering and sorrows coming on the land. He brings him to Cherith, and Cherith yields him water for his thirst. Just as, in the beautiful language of the eighty-fourth psalm, it is said, as to the blessing of those "in whose heart are the ways" — the ways that lead to the presence of God, "Who passing through the valley of Baca," (of tears) "make it a well." Cherith becomes this to the prophet.

Thus God makes things most contrary to work together for good to them that love Him. It is not loss to learn what that world is through which Christ has passed before; nor to be proved by it as He was proved; nor to have had in it the discipline He could not need; nor the opportunity of doing in it, as He did, the Father's will, in the face of suffering and of sorrow.

By and by, it will certainly be no sorrow to have known, in whatever measure, the circumstances of his path down here, in which God was glorified as nowhere else. How could we be so prepared to see, as now we may see, but soon shall fully, what His perfection was, or what the grace that brought Him into the world for us? And then to have shared, in whatever smaller measure, with Him the trial, and with Him the victory! Manna is no mere wilderness food, though it is that. In our Canaan home at last, and forever, it is written that he that overcometh shall eat of the hidden manna.

This is another thing from discipline, of course; but we do need discipline at God's hand continually too; and that discipline is really what God uses to strengthen and bless. You have it in a beautiful way in Balaam's unwilling blessing of the people. "Who can count the dust of Jacob?" Jacob is looked at in the figure of dust. What does that mean? It means that they had been as dust trodden under the foot of the Egyptians. And yet Egypt was the place in which suddenly Jacob had grown into a nation. "The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew." It is the rule in all dispensations that have been, for all God's people. Thus Balaam says," Who can count the dust of Jacob?" "Jacob" is designedly said. It was his natural, not spiritual, name, — Jacob, the "supplanter." And Jacob needed humiliation, but grew by it.

That is what we find in the first place as to the prophet in this chapter. In the second place, God takes him away from the brook, when it fails and dries up, to Zarephath, outside of Israel altogether. Israel had rejected the Lord, and were feeling His hand in consequence. He takes him outside of Israel to be witness that the grace of the Lord will not be dammed back by human barriers, or restricted to the narrow limits to which man would confine it. That is the way the Lord uses that story of the widow of Zarephath. And the gospel in Luke commences with His testimony at Nazareth, that if in Israel the outflow of His goodness is restrained, God will have His witnesses in spite of that. Grace will only show itself the more gracious. Outside of the whole field of privilege, He takes Himself a witness among the Gentiles.

For the Lord's words recorded in the fourth chapter of Luke are not a mere arbitrary expression of God's sovereignty; — they have been so taken, but they are not. "Of a truth," He says, "many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow." (vv. 25, 26.) Now you must remember that what they had been just saying, after they had borne witness too of His gracious words, and wondered at them, was, "Is not this Joseph's son?" Before this, He had been declaring to them the acceptable year of the Lord, and the power of the Spirit there in Him for their healing. It is when they were saying, "Is not this Joseph's son?" in spite of the gracious words they were conscious and witness of, — it is then that He warns them that God cannot be shut up by their unbelief: if they reject Him, He will go outside to the Gentiles.

That is what Elijah has to learn in the case of the widow of Sarepta. He has to learn to go out with God outside the limits to which natural ties, and even religious associations, would confine turn, and recognize in a woman of Sidon the work of God's sovereign grace, — there in its fullest and most wonderful display. I do not believe we have bottomed the need of man (or, therefore, our own,) until we have learnt the absolute sovereignty of divine grace, — shown, however, let us remember, in a scene where man's rejection of it compels Him to be sovereign, if He show grace at all. Man's will, alas! is in opposition to that will of God to which, if all yielded, all could and would be saved. But if some, — if we have yielded, is it because of betterness in us? — were our hearts naturally more docile or obedient? Scripture shall answer for us: "As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." Therefore, beloved brethren, was it needful that we should be born again, "not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" alone. The very figure speaks of this; for in our natural birth, was there aught of our own will? — were we consulted? Or in creation, has the thing called into being its choice? And we are not only born of God, but His creation, "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works."

But then this sovereign grace is grace in its fullest display. It is divine love overtopping barriers that might well be thought, even by it, unsurmountable. It is the heart of God manifested, — His will shown indeed to be but the energy of His nature who is love.

I know what rises in the mind of some: "Why not, then, save all? Could He not as well save all?" But I can only answer, The necessary limit even to divine goodness is its own perfection. God has solemnly assured us He would not have men perish. What infinite wisdom can do, I must be infinitely wise myself to know.

Elijah's second lesson is one that it indeed imports the man of God to have learnt well.

All the way through, Elijah has to learn the lesson of dependence. Dependence, of course, is nothing else than faith; and the Lord puts His servant where faith shall be a continual necessity. Thus, what He seeks from us, He gives us practical help toward producing for Him. Faith grows by exercise. God ordains for it, in Elijah's case, continual exercise. He has no stock of his own, we may say, ever to subsist upon. The ravens bring him bread and flesh in the morning and bread and flesh in the evening; and the next day, and still the next, it is the same thing again. And then when he comes to Zarephath, there you find, in the same way, the widow is called upon to sustain him, and there is a little oil in a cruse and a handful of meal in a barrel. The meal does not fail in the barrel, and the oil does not fail in the cruse. It does not increase, however, — it continues a handful of meal and a little oil; and he is kept, in that way, in constant dependence upon God.

And that is the way the Lord would have us spiritually. He never gives a stock of any thing — of grace or of gift — so that we can say, "I have got enough to last me so long, at least." That would be taking us out of the place of faith, and depriving us of the blessing God has for us. He covets to show us what He is, — His power, His love, His unforgetfulness of us. As it is said of the people whom in His love and His pity He redeemed, "He bare them and carried them all the days of old." It is a great thing to get this in a real and practical way for ourselves with God. If He keeps us low down here, — and you know it is His way, in more senses than one, to call and choose the poor, — it is not because His hand is niggard, (God forbid!) but that we may not miss realizing this great blessing of His care. Often all we think of is, having our need met; but how little a thing is that with God! It would cost Him nothing, we may say, to meet the need of a lifetime in a moment; and a lesser love than His would supply it at once, and get rid of a constant burden. But that is not His way. To supply the need is a small thing; but to supply it in such a way as to make us feel in each seasonable supply the Father's eye never withdrawn from us, the Father's heart ever employed about us, — that is what He means. "Give us day by day our daily bread" is the prayer the Lord taught His disciples; and thus we ask Him continually to be waiting on us. Is it not much more than to ask, Give us now, that we may not have to come again?

What a place the wilderness was to Israel, where the constant manna was a daily miracle, and the cloud of Jehovah's presence led them in the way! It was the place, alas! of constant murmurings; but in God's design, and to faith wherever in exercise, how wonderful a manifestation of the living God! Yet that wilderness journey is but for us a type, — only a shadow, therefore short of the reality of what faith in us should realize to be ours. What a spectacle to the heavenly beings, to whom is "known, by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God"! what daily miracles of grace for eyes that are open to it!

And of course these were types (as the manna and the water from the rock,) of spiritual blessings ministered to us. And here, the same rule applies. No stock given into our hand; all funds in God's treasure-house, but therefore unfailing; and a daily, hourly, ministry of strength according to the need, which not only meets it, but tells of the tenderness of a Father's care, and of the faithfulness of our High-Priest gone in to God.

Precious lessons for more than Elijah the Tishbite!fresh for our hearts today.

Lecture 3

His Discipline. 1 Kings 17:17-24.

In this last scene in the verses I have read to you we find the third thing in the discipline of the man of God, — and a thing that is above all needed to be known in order that he should really fulfill this character. As I have said, it is what we all are by position, it is therefore what we all must be practically, or else our very profession of Christianity condemns us. Being a man of God is not being something very exalted, and which God would leave, so to speak, to our choice, whether we would be so or not. As we have seen already, all Scripture is given to furnish the man of God thoroughly unto all good works. Mark well, it does not speak of furnishing any body else, and we are necessarily God's by the fact that we are purchased by the blood of Christ. Beloved friends, to be according to his mind, therefore, is what we are called to, and throughout history, — especially, I may say, that of the Church of God, — the very failure of His professing people has only forced those true to Him the more to take that character.

You have here, in the very last verse, something which especially makes known the man of God. The woman says to Elijah, "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth." What is it that makes the man of God specially known to her, and gives specially to his testimony the character of truth? It is this: not merely that he knows the living God, but that he knows and has had to do with the God of resurrection. Death visits the house of the widow of Zarephath. God has taken away her son. Not the widow alone, but Elijah himself is brought face to face with this fact of death; a death which the woman's conscience realizes, as ours do if in activity at all, to be the fruit of sin.

Death is the stamp upon a fallen creation — the solemn witness upon God's part of the ruin which has come in. Every where, in every language, whatever the darkness of man's mind, whatever the religious corruption of those not wishing to retain God in their knowledge, it has testified plainly to men's souls of wrath against the creature He has made. Why else undo what he has done? Why take again the life that He has given? He is not a child, to break and cast away His plaything of an hour.

Death is what we all have to do with, — the liability to which God has not delivered any one of us from here. If the Lord Jesus comes, of course we shall not die; but in the meanwhile, each of us is personally liable and exposed to it. And what we need is, surely, to know the God of resurrection. We need a God of that character in two ways: for ourselves, of course, as a matter of simple power for our own life. We need to know this also as a power for testimony, as Paul the apostle, — "We also believe, and therefore speak: knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus;" or, as you see it here in the widow of Sarepta, "Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth."

Resurrection, God's power over death, — power available and displayed in our behalf, is thus God's testimony to Himself among men. But I may say, in these times it is particularly the testimony He is giving. You know, if you take the Lord Jesus through His life even down here, as you have Him in the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans, "He was marked out the Son of God." How? He was, on the one hand, Son of David after the flesh; but He was "marked out the Son of God, according to the spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead." By the fact that He could meet death, and manifest divine power over it, — by that fact He showed Himself as evidently the Son of God; for He met it, not as Elijah meets it here, — by prayer and supplication, looking up to another for help about it, but in His own power and name alone. By His simple word He met it and dispelled it; a condition hopeless for man to deal with. Man says, "While there is life there is hope." When death comes there is no hope: he can only bury his dead out of his sight. That gives God the opportunity to come in. It is just there He testifies to Himself as One who has available for man the power of resurrection. The Lord thus manifested His power on earth before His own death and in His own name. He showed that He was the Son of God there with practical help for man, — a power that could deal with sin itself, or it could not deal so with its fruit and penalty.

When the Lord met death, He met it fully; — Jordan filled all its banks for Him. He knew it in its full character as penalty, bearing in His own body what had brought it in. Three days and three nights He lay under it, and when He arose from the dead, there took place what had had its type long before, when for Israel the ark stood in the bed of Jordan; when those who bore it stood on the brink of the waters, and they rolled away right and left till there was a road no woman's heart need fear to travel from shore to shore. Then His own words received their full interpretation which He had spoken to the sorrowing heart of Martha before that" I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die." (vv. 25, 26.)

In the past, there had been death; in the past, people had to go through it. No doubt He was with them: and so the Psalmist says, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me." (Ps. 23) Still it had to be gone through, though resurrection eventually for them also should banish it, whereas now the Lord having been in it, and come through, there is no real death impending for us, but a clear path made right through it. "I am the resurrection and the life; and he that liveth and believeth in Me" — has no death to go through at all, — "shall never die." Now are we not called as Christians to realize the truth of that? It is truth, of course, for faith; it is not truth evident to sense and sight. Yet by and by, when the Lord Jesus comes, it will be manifested as to those that are in the body at that time; — it will be manifested as to us then, if we should be, as we easily may be, here, that death has no title over us at all. He will take His own to Himself without dying. Until that time, it is a fact that faith has to realize. For faith it is simple, that Christ having passed through death and come up out of it, His resurrection no less than His death is ours. Divine power has shown its exceeding greatness toward us," according to its working when God raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places." (Eph. 1:19-20.) In Him, quickened and raised up with Him, we too "are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Therefore in God's mind we have no death to pass through, for we have passed through it in Him who is as much our representative in the heavens as He was upon the cross. We are rightly expected, therefore, to know resurrection in a way in which even Elijah could not know it — in a way in which no saints of the Old Testament could possibly know it. We are called to know it as those who in themselves, in their own persons, are living examples of it.

True, we did not know what death was in passing through it: there was no water in Jordan for us. The waves and billows, so terrible as God's waves and billows, spent their force on Him alone. We have come through the dry bed only. But we have come through. This is the simple fact in God's account; and God's is ever the truest — the only true one. Being dead with Christ, we are also quickened with Him out of death, and raised up and seated together in Christ in the heavenly places.

It is one thing to have this, of course, in Scripture, — nay, to recognize this truth in Scripture; but another thing for ourselves to have known what it is practically — to have got hold of it experimentally, to have apprehended in this respect that for which we are apprehended of Christ Jesus. It is this latter alone that makes us men of God, and gives us to be real witnesses for God, accredited witnesses of heavenly things. This makes us lights indeed in the world: for earth's ordained lights are heavenly; sun and moon and stars light her up, otherwise dark. So, if the Church is the responsible witness for God on earth — the candlestick, — the true light, the "angel" is the heavenly "star." (Rev. 1:20.) Nature is one with God's Word in affirming thus the character of all true witnessing; because it comes from God, it must be of necessity heavenly, for He is. Resurrection puts us there. Resurrection carries us outside of the world through death, its boundary-line. Left in it for a while, no doubt, in another sense, but even so pilgrims and strangers, merely passing through it. We belong to it no more than Christ belonged to it.

And is there not such a thing as getting hold of this in reality? It is a different thing to say, "I know it is there in Scripture," from saying, "I know it for a truth in my very soul." Such recognition will make us of necessity something of — in one sense much more than — what Elijah was. It will carry us into a new sphere of relationship, of thought, of interests; and where all is deathless and eternal. We shall appreciate the Lord's words to the lingering disciple, to "let the dead bury their dead." That will be no unintelligible mysticism, as to many a believer we fear still it is.

The simple recognition of the fact requires faith. All spiritual realization is by faith, — a faith to which the surest evidence and the highest reason are that God has spoken. And although the Spirit of truth must make it good to us, and to grieve the Spirit is necessarily to deaden spiritual sense and dim perception, yet it is as the Spirit of truth He acts — by truth, and our faith in it. Thus alone can we pass through death and beyond, to where Christ is before God, and there for us.

If you look at the eleventh chapter of John's gospel, you will find there the great chapter which speaks of resurrection as God's witness. All the way through, you find how even Christ's disciples are under the power of death. The sisters of Bethany send to Him to say that His friend Lazarus is sick. The thought is (one so natural), if Christ were there, he could not die. They want His presence in order to put off death, which yet could be merely a reprieve, staving it off for a little while. That is all they think of. He has other thoughts. He stays away, in his love to them (for it comes in here so beautifully, "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus"), and lets him die.

When the Lord proposes to go to Judea again the disciples say; "Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again?" Thomas says, "Let us go also, that we may die with Him." Death is upon all their souls, — nothing but death. When He comes, He finds them overwhelmed at the thought that death had come and touched one of the Lord's own. Instead of Lazarus being this making it better, it made it worse in one sense. Was He indifferent? or was death master even over His? What does He do? He has said from the beginning "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." Facts might seem to be against Him, for Lazarus does die. But even so is it seen, as else it could not, that He, not death, is Master. Lazarus is raised. And what is the consequence? Such a testimony to Himself they never had before: crowds come out from Jerusalem to learn about this wonderful thing; and the very presence of Lazarus there, the man who had actually come through death, is the thing that draws them. They come, "not merely that they may see Jesus, but to see Lazarus also, whom He has raised from the dead." Think of a man who had actually come through death and come out of it! If we apprehended that we are just such a people, — if we did apprehend, in any proper sense, that we really belonged to another sphere, what a testimony for Christ it would be! It would indeed bring persecution. It brought it in that case. It was then that the Pharisees consulted about putting Christ, and Lazarus also, to death, because by reason of him all men, as they thought, would believe on Him. They would like to put out the lamp which God had lighted; but it just shows what the power of such a testimony is. And let me say again, there is no real and sufficient testimony — there is no proper Christian testimony now — but that.

Some may call it high truth; and some, again, to whom it is outwardly familiar, may think it truth that needs very little insisting upon. I wish it did. What is the fact, when practice comes to test the actuality and power of the belief we have? What, for men who really knew the power of resurrection, would be the serious business of their lives? Would it be their aim to make money, beloved brethren? Trying to get things comfortable around them? To keep up their station in the world, and live as well as their neighbors? Of course we have got to get through it, and have to do with it in the way of business. He who was "the carpenter" has sanctified honest labor, and there is nothing at all derogatory or unspiritual in it. But I need scarcely remind you what He was down here, all the way constantly and absolutely a heavenly man. Let me ask you, beloved friends, do you think that Christ could have set his heart on making money? Do you think He could have come into the world in order to seek a comfortable place in it, or anything of that sort? You know it was the very opposite of that. And what are we? We are distinctly His representatives in the world, as He was Himself His Father's representative. "As My Father hath sent Me into the world," He says to us, "so have I sent you into the world." What is the consequence? Why, we must not talk about this being "high truth," and we must not think that after all the humble part is not to pretend to so much. We are Christ's representatives down here in the world. True or false, no doubt: that is what it comes to true or false witnesses for Christ down here. The responsibility of the place is ours, and if we are Christians, we must frankly accept it.

It will not do to value ourselves upon our morality, honesty, benevolence, and that sort of thing. The world knows perfectly well there is no testimony merely in that, because it will find you honest men, benevolent men, and moral men, without the least pretense to religion. The world is keen-eyed, and knows that that is no sufficient testimony. "If that is all you have to show," they will tell you, "we can do without your Christianity. We have just such people who have none." But if we appear as people of another sphere, people who have their backs upon the world, as having beyond it a sufficient and satisfying portion, such as in it they have not, — that is another matter. "There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased."

Elijah of course could not know, as we now may, the power of resurrection. We have in this case the exhibition of it in a very different way, because we have Old Testament truth, and not New Testament. Still it was resurrection that made Elijah known as a man of God, and the word of God in his mouth as the truth. So nothing else will make the word of God in our mouth known as truth in any sufficient sense, or approve us as men of God.

You will find, if you turn to the fourth chapter of the second of Corinthians, the apostle speaking very plainly about this. What opened his lips to speak? He was continually exposed to death, given up to it, not merely of his own accord, but by God's will too, God everywhere exposing him to that which he had given himself up to. "We are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (v. 11.) He was "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus," (v. 10.) and God gave him up to death, to meet it practically, — "in deaths oft."

That was the very thing which made life work in those around about. This death which was working in him (v. 12) was the power of his testimony to them. Death, so to speak, had a fair opportunity to show its power over him but it only showed that it had none at all — all it could do was to make life shine out brighter. "Death worketh in us, but life in you."

The power of resurrection opened his mouth: "I believed, and therefore have I spoken," (v. 13), "knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen." (v. 17, 18.)

That is where his eyes were; that is what his heart was occupied with; and you find at the opening of the next chapter how fully for him Christ had met death and judgment. To die was to "depart and be with Christ." The thought of the judgment-seat moved him for others: "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men."

Listen to him again: "We have this treasure (the treasure of divine grace,) in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (v. 7.)

What is the practical value of the "earthen vessel"? The bird of heaven, the leper's offering in Lev. 14, needed an earthen vessel too! — to die in!

It was one thing impossible for God — to die. He who had that in His heart of love for us, if He remained that simply, could not die. He took an earthen vessel — a human body — to die in. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, and death works in us. God has taken us up as earthen vessels, in which He can accomplish something for Himself. He takes up what is just proper material to be broken into potsherds, — poor, weak creatures, who can stand nothing, we may say; and then, like Gideon's men, having hid his lamps there, He breaks the vessel to make the light shine out. Death may have power over Paul's body, but the very fact manifests that there was that in Paul over which it had not power. His true life is beyond it, untouched by it. The life of Jesus — the risen heavenly life of Jesus — shines manifestly out in him.

"Death worketh in us, but life in you."

The life of Jesus belongs not to the world. It is eternal life, with the Father before the world was, and manifested to us in Him in whom the world found nothing kindred to itself, therefore no beauty. His home was elsewhere. His delights with the sons of men did not alter that. In us, too, it will manifest itself as that which has its source and attachment elsewhere, and there where alone no want, no unrest, no instability, is found. We manifest it when Christ is our realized sufficiency and strength, and our circumstances alter nothing, as with regard to this they can alter nothing. When we pass through the world debtors to it for nothing it can give. This is not misanthropy, not asceticism, not giving up this world in order to get another, — that is only living to ourselves in another form, and from that we are delivered. It is the very opposite, — giving up the world because we have what is beyond. God is our portion, and to the fullness which is ours in Christ the world can add absolutely nothing; nor, blessed be His name! can it take any thing away.

This is real testimony to Christ. It is when we can say, "He is enough for us; and know how to be abased, and how to abound, for He strengthens us. Why, oftentimes God has to put us on a sick-bed, in order to show us practically what He can do. Blessed it is, surely, to see how He works thus, — to see how He proves His sufficiency to those whom He lays low. But the blessing of a sick-bed is often just that God takes away all other things to show us that in reality we have lost nothing, whereas before we did not quite believe this. And what Christ shows us there, He is ready to show us without the need of a sickbed at all. I do not say that all there need it in this way. I am not reflecting upon these at all: God has His own mysterious working, and there are many and diverse purposes worthy of Himself He can accomplish thus. Still this is often what we learn and have to learn there, to be weaned from nature's breasts, and find what is our sufficiency elsewhere.

The power of resurrection is divine power, and He who is in us, come down from His own abode to link our souls with the place to which they belong, is not limited in His power to do this for us. No doubt we, by our unbelief, may practically limit Him, and as with Elijah on the mount, the storm and earthquake and fire may be needed to prepare the way for what after all must do His work with us — the "still, small voice."

Let us remember, too, one thing as to resurrection which connects itself with our first gospel-lessons. I have already spoken of it, but not as fully as it needs. Until Christ died, — until the work was done by which righteously He could do it, — God could not show Himself upon our side, or His heart out as He would. There was a time when the blessed Sufferer had to say, "I cry in the day-time, and Thou hearest not." He had to be delivered out of death, not from it,* — out of it as the One gone into it for others.

{*So the passage in Heb. 5:7 should be read.}

As soon as His work was accomplished, then God stepped forth and showed Himself at once on the same side as the One who took that place for us, — by raising up His Son from the dead. It was the acceptance of Christ's work. He showed Himself there upon our side. Therefore the apostle says, at the end of the fourth of Romans, "If we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification," (vv. 24, 25.) That is, believe on the God who is for us righteously by the death of Christ. Who is for us, and showed Himself for us the very moment He could; and He could be for us now, with all His attributes displayed and glorified. He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father; righteousness required it, while love shone out in it.

That is what resurrection makes us know. It is the full and bright display of divine glory now shining in the face of a man in the nearest place that can be to God in heaven; yea, and that man is God, — His image. To attempt to know Christ after the flesh, as the apostle says for himself he did not, is to lose all the blessedness of this. Nor is there any Christ to be known but up there in heaven. If our souls are occupied with Him up there, in the light over which never more comes a cloud, — there where all the glory of God is displayed, shining with perpetual sunshine down into our souls, — what will the world be to us?

With our eyes and hearts up there, where Christ in the glory is the revelation of a divine object for a heart brought back to God, they will necessarily be off the whole scene from which temptation comes to us. He is for us there in the glory. We are before God in Him, those upon whom God's eye rests with fullness of satisfaction, His own beloved. And so, practically, outside all that now tempts and defiles and weighs down here; that is what God has provided for us, and our first duty as Christians — taking the epistle to the Philippians — is to "rejoice in the Lord." To be happy where happiness is full and uninterrupted. The only possible power we can find for going through the world aright is the power of the enjoyment of Christ. If Christ is known in this way, — if Christ satisfies, in that is strength to do all things — to be abased and to abound — as the apostle; to go down into the scene of death, and, while it works upon us, to give forth the testimony which God seeks from us. The Lord give us grace to realize what I have so feebly shown you here. Thus only can we be practically men of God.

The Lord enable us to realize what we are, as those who have learned the power of resurrection — the power which has raised up Christ from the dead, and which works toward His people in the same energy, raising us up with Him and putting us in Him in the heavenly places before God.