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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

To Whom the Arm of the Lord is Revealed # 2

Common Features

Now you will notice that many of these instances have certain features in common.

Firstly, there was the exalting of world powers against God: the lifting up of the head on the part of the powers of this world against the Lord and against His anointed.

Secondly, there was the involvement of the Lord's glory and the Lord's purpose, through conditions of weakness or apostasy among His own people. It was not to the Lord's glory to have Israel in Egypt. After the covenant that the Lord had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it was altogether contrary to the revealed purpose of His heart, that He should have the sons of Israel in bondage in Egypt, giving their strength to the powers of evil. It was entirely contrary to the glory of God to have Israel in Babylon; it was dishonoring to Him ad contrary to His revealed intention. How often it was like that - that the Lord revealed His arm because of a condition among His own people.

And then, thirdly, there was a cry from within on the part of an instrument of intercession. There was Moses, in touch with God right from the inside in relation to that situation in Egypt; there was Daniel, and a few others with him, right on the inside of the situation in Babylon, crying to God; there were those prayer meetings recorded in the Book of Acts - the cry of the elect to be avenged. This was a feature common to the intervention of God again and again - a cry from the inside.

Some questions arise in relation to all this in our own day. Is there a situation in our time which corresponds to these situations, in that threefold connection? Is there a connection like that today? I think the answer is obvious. Are world powers lifting up their heads against the Lord? Was there ever a time when the throne of God was more challenged by world powers than today? Is there a condition in Christianity which brings much dishonor to the Lord? Is the Lord's true testimony today involved in a spiritual state which is contrary to His revealed mind? The answer again is self-evident. It is impossible in these days to move about this world without meeting these two things and being almost overwhelmed by them. The tremendous force of evil that is set against God! You feel it, you meet it, it comes out at you everywhere. And if that is distressing, without exaggeration even more distressing is the state in Christianity generally, which is such a contradiction to what God has revealed as to His purpose. Sometimes you are almost compelled to say that the greatest enemy of Christianity is - Christianity! I am speaking, of course, very generally. The honor and glory of God is deeply involved today in a condition among His people which is very dishonoring to Him. These two conditions undoubtedly obtain today.

What about the third feature? Is there a cry from the inside? It is difficult to say much about this - perhaps Yes and No. There is a growing sense within the heart of many children of God that things are not right - a real sense that this is not what the Lord meant; and there is, I believe, a cry deep down in many hearts for some changing of the spiritual condition among His people. With all the very general satisfaction with so little, there is here and there a cry, even a discerning and understanding cry, born of a conviction that the Lord meant something other for His Church than this. This could never answer to God's standard! It may be that this consciousness is stronger and its expression greater than we are able to assess. The Lord must have it, if He is to be able to do anything; but even if it is only a Daniel and three or four others in Babylon, that is enough for Him. I would lay great emphasis upon this last point: the urgent need of a deepened, strengthened cry to God. I come back to that again presently.

Will the Lord Again Reveal His Arm?

These three things, then, surely do obtain today. Is it not therefore time that the arm of the Lord should once more be revealed? "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Have we in the Scriptures anything to justify an expectation that, at the end, the arm of the Lord will again be revealed, as on these former occasions? Is there something that would support our prayer and our expectation? Surely there is much! For instance, on the day of Pentecost Peter quoted from the prophecies of Joel; but he broke off the prophecy before he finished it. And the fulfillment of the prophecy on that day also stopped at a certain point: it stopped at the outpouring of the Spirit. Peter said: "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16). But Joel's prophecy, from which Peter quoted at some length, did not have its complete fulfillment on that day. If you look again at Act 2:19-21`, you will see that some mighty things were included in that same prophecy, which were suspended on the Day of Pentecost for a later day. Those things are held in reserve for another time.

Again, you remember the incident when the Lord Jesus, returning from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit, went to Nazareth and entered into the synagogue on the Sabbath day (Luke 4:16-19). The roll was handed to Him, and He opened it at Isaiah 61, and began to read. But at a certain point, before He had finished the prophecy, He stopped. At the words" "... the acceptable year of the Lord," He broke off, and sat down. He did not finish with: "and the day of vengeance of our God"; He left that part of the prophecy unread. That is suspended; that has yet to be.

Then we have a passage such as Matthew 24, from verse 29 onwards, pointing to what will happen at the end, at the day of the coming of the Lord. It is full of the marks of the baring of the arm of the Lord, the intervention of God at the end time. It is impressive, is it not, that some of the statements in that passage are identical in language with the reminded of Joel's prophecy. These things have not all been fulfilled yet; they are suspended for a later  day.

And what are we to say about the Book of the Revelation? Whatever interpretation you accept of that Book, historicist, futurist, or whatever it might be, you cannot get away from the fact that it all focuses upon the Day of the Coming of the Lord. It is full of interventions of God - in the life of the Church, in the life of the nations, and in the kingdom of darkness. Yes, I think there is much in the Word that would justify an expectation that,at the end, there is going to be a very great revealing of the arm of the Lord.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

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