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Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Nature of Service and the Marks of a Servant

Luke 2:25-35; "The end of all things is at hand" (1 Peter 4;7)

I think it unnecessary to stress the fact that only by reason of time, but also by the clear evidence of world developments, the above words from Peter's letter are obviously very much nearer fulfillment than when they were written were written. We have only to contemplate some actual, present possibilities, which could develop any day and issue in a very full fulfillment of the end of all things. In a word, there is no doubt that "the end of all things is at hand," that the turn of the dispensation is near. The great transition from what has obtained during this dispensation to what will obtain in the next is approaching rapidly. If that is true, we are impressed with that, we should look to the Word of God to see if it has anything to say to us as to what the Lord will do at such a time; and we are not left without very clear information as to the nature of things at an end-time  and as to what God brings forward as His supreme work at such a time. Here, in the end-time represented by Simeon and Anna and a company in Jerusalem, we have been seeing something of those abiding spiritual features of such a time.

Our particular point now is the matter of service as represented by Simeon; Simeon and the service of God at an end-time. We shall look at the service and the servant, putting it in that order because it is the service to be fulfilled which explains God's dealings with the servant. You never know why the Lord deals with you in certain ways until you know what He wants to do with you; or, to put that in another way, the Lord's dealings with us are prophetic of what He is going to do through us and by us.

The Service - The Bringing In of Christ in Fullness

Here was Simeon. The service explained the man, for, as we have so far seen, the service to be fulfilled by Simeon was the bringing in of  Christ in fullness. Up to that time Christ had been made known in a fragmentary way, by divers portions, in divers ways, here a little and there a little. It had been a progressive development of that which pointed to or symbolized Christ. But now the end of those times had come - of signs and symbols and parts and diversities. Now had arrived the full, the whole, the complete Christ, the Lord Himself; and Simeon was closely related to the bringing in, and the presenting to the future, of Christ, the embodiment of God's fullness. That was the principle of his service, the thing for which God had reserved him and kept him alive; and when there is a service like that to be fulfilled, the bringing in of Christ essentially - not typically, symbolically or partially but essentially and fully - the course of the servant will be no ordinary, easygoing course. The history will not be simple. It will seem to be very complex, very bewildering, very stressful. There will be all the things in existence which would put the instrument out of commission.

The Servant

1. Prepared Through Pressure

You need only to read the story of the years between the two Testaments to know at what a low level things were when the Lord Jesus came in. There was plenty going on of the religious system, but the real, spiritual, essential value was very small, the state of things very deplorable; and Simeon had lived long years through that state of things and might well have lost heart. There was plenty, I say, to put him out altogether. You know of the political conditions of his day, which created a well-nigh impossible situation in which to expect the fulfillment of any testimony in glory. The enemy was in the land and the people of God were in poor condition; and much more. The inward spiritual  history of this man could have been no easygoing sort of thing, but must have been full of testing and trying, and of much pressure to put him right out. Strange ways with a vessel for fullness! You would think that to be chosen for such a purpose would mean that the history would in some way correspond with fullness, would be marvelous and wonderful, without any difficulty about it at all.

But it is just the contrary. That vessel, chosen and reserved  by God to bring in a greater fullness of Christ, is a vessel strangely beset and assailed by all sorts of extraordinary things. It has a complicated course, in which it would never be at all difficult to give up and fade right out and say, 'The situation is hopeless!' The way of this service that has to do with the fullness of Christ is a way of great difficulty and perplexity and anguish, of pressure and stress and seeming complication, and ofttimes of apparent impossibility.

2. Tested By God's Hidden Working

I want to say here that Simeon was but the individual voice and actor in a corporate end-time ministry. We are told here that Anna, who is a kind of counterpart of Simeon, spoke to all those who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem. There was evidently a company of them in Jerusalem. It may have been, and doubtless was, comparatively small, but there it was. There was  a company there, waiting, praying, standing for the fullness of the Lord, and Simeon was but the voice and expression of that corporate vessel. I say that, because we do not want to think too much about the individuals in this matter - considering ourselves as individual Simeons. The Lord raises up a corporate testimony to represent and bring in His greater fullness, and what is true of the individual is true of the company. It goes through strange, unusual ways of testing, of perplexity, of adversity, of strain, and ofttimes its position seems to be an impossible one. Just think yourself into Simeon's position. All these long years he had been standing, praying, waiting, longing, for the coming of the Lord's  Christ. Although the Lord Himself had spoken to him and told him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ, you know very well that under certain conditions of pressure you are tempted to question even what the Lord has said to you, and it would not have been difficult now for Simeon, as an old man, to have said, 'I wonder if I am deceived. Am I holding on to an illusion? Nothing seems to be happening, there seems to be no development, I am getting older and older, and even the promises of God do not seem to be fulfilled; what God has said seems to be no nearer realization.' Under stress you can feel and think like that. I have no doubt Simeon suffered the same assaults on his mind as other people of God have done in their relationship to something precious of the Lord.

Do you realize, then, that it is perhaps as a part of a vessel, and not as being individually of great significance, that we may be sharing the strange history of that vessel and the peculiar pressure upon it, because it is chosen of God to bring in a greater fullness of His Son in a time when spiritual need is going to be very great and very intense.

The ways of God in Simeon's days were hidden ways. There was no sign of anything, nothing at all that spoke of a mighty work of God. That is the most testing thing - to be able to live through and live on when it seems that God is doing nothing about the thing you have been hoping for and talking about. The signs are all hidden, the ways of God are beyond our finding out. That is a very testing thing, but it is in such testings that the Lord prepares His vessel for that particular service.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

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